Biologist, Conservationist, & Portlander. My passion lives in Africa.

Monday, January 7, 2013

Big oil strikes again.

3:18 PM Posted by Tara Easter No comments
To tell the story of why I am personally enraged by this news, we'll need to back up a bit. 

As you may know, my study abroad trip to Namibia was more than a life changing experience; it was a catalyst in forming my lifelong goals to work and explore in Africa. Upon meeting Tom LaRock, owner of Tom LaRock's Safari Professionals, I immediately wanted to help his organization expand in their tourism business so that he could have more money to start up his non-profit branch: Impact On Africa.  So I began an informal internship with Safari Professionals. Through this, I have had the privilege of getting to know many of his previous clients, who have since devoted their lives to making a positive difference in the African communities they visited. 

I was especially excited to write an article for a local magazine (which I will post when it is released). For this article, I interviewed past safari goers who dazzled me with the sights they saw in Kenya, Tanzania, and Rwanda. One in particular recalled his visit to Virunga National Park. I listened to his enchanting stories of going from open grass plains to thick mountain jungles, his guides hacking their way through the forest with machetes, radioing in to the gorilla trackers miles away. After a two hour hike, he was 10 feet away from a group of 18 mountain gorillas. 

I have also heard of the courageous stories of wildlife rangers in the Congo. They often risk their lives to protect the forest and incredible species that inhabit it. 

Then, I see this. Virunga National Park has a new enemy: Oil. It saddens me to think of how so many incredible places could be destroyed because of human and corporation greed. And to think we were just celebrating the increase in the gorilla population. The possibility for oil exploitation in the Congo was also addressed in this article, which has since become increasingly concerning. 

Many people do not realize that the ethical dilemmas that stem from oil extraction focus around people sometimes just as much as it does the environment. This article does an excellent job at pointing out just that, arguing that the local people would never actually see any benefits from the oil extracted. 

On top of lies told by the company saying the communities welcome their presence, I was especially blown away by a comment made by senior SOCO executive Roger Cagle in attempts to justify any environmental degradation:
The environmental destruction already visited on Virunga by decades of deforestation, poaching and war would render “inconsequential by comparison” any adverse affects caused by SOCO’s oil activities."
Two wrongs do not make a right, Mr. Cagle.

And if being protected as a UNESCO World Heritage Site doesn't protect a park, what will?


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