The TownhallPolitics

The truth about conservation: privatization, racism, and control

By Gugulethu Hughes

Editor’s note: The opinions expressed here are those of the authors. View more opinion on ScoonTV. 

Several prominent Caucasians have been credited with bringing the concept of modern conservation as a means of nature preservation into the mainstream. The most common “Fathers of Conservation” are Gifford Pinchot, John Muir, Theodore Roosevelt, George Bird Grinnell, and Madison Grant. 

Gifford Pinchot is credited with launching the conservation movement in the United States of America and was Chief of the U.S. Forest Service. John Muir, often referred to as a naturalist, founded the Sierra Club and fueled the creation of the Yosemite National Park and preservation of Sierra Nevada in California. Theodore Roosevelt and George Bird Grinnell formed the Boone and Crockett Club, later deemed the first true conservation  organization in the USA. 

The works of these figures form the foundations of modern-day conservation with new figures keeping their legacy alive. 

The theory of conservation in its current state and as defined by the main proponents presents itself as a movement exhibiting concern for the human race. However, it’s actually a threat to humanity. 

Humanity has always preserved its existence naturally and organically. The emergence of these “Fathers of Conservation” was nothing but a successful attempt at creating an industry out of nature and having control over it for experimental and profit driven purposes. 

Melody S. Mobly, the first black American forester at the U.S. Forest Service, detailed the racism she endured at the  organization. Because she was black, she was subjected to horrifying behavior from her many white compatriots. She was raped and constantly reminded that black women were only good for sex. These acts of racism were institutional because the U.S. Forest Service was formed as an exclusively white  organization for the exclusive preservation of white supremacy. 

This racist form of preservation also had its roots in eugenics. Madison Grant was one of the outspoken conservationists interested in controlling and managing the human gene pool. 

A 2015 New Yorker article by scholar Jebediah Purdy detailed in spectacular fashion how these American clubs of conservation thrived on eugenics and racism. The article said, among other things, 

“Grant spent his career at the centre of the same energetic conservationist circle as Roosevelt. This band of reformers did much to create the country’s national parks, forests, game refuges, and other public lands—the system of environmental stewardship and public access that has been called “America’s best idea.” They developed the conviction that a country’s treatment of its land and wildlife is a measure of its character. Now that natural selection had given way to humanity’s “complete mastery of the globe,” as Grant wrote in 1909, his generation had “the responsibility of saying what forms of life shall be preserved…” 

Grant is also known for his 1916 book “The Passing of The Great Race, or the Racial Basis of European History” where he stated that Nordics were a natural aristocracy, marked by noble, generous instincts and a gift for political self-governance. But they were being overtaken by the “Alpine” and “Mediterranean” populations. Purdy further asserts that Grant’s racial theory influenced the Immigration Act of 1924 which restricted immigration from Eastern and Southern Europe and Africa. The act also banned migrants from the Middle East and Asia. 

Adolf Hitler even wrote Grant an admiring letter, calling the book “my Bible.” That admiration has given the book permanent status on the far-right. Anders Breivik, the Norwegian extremist who killed sixty-nine young Labour Party members in 2011, drew on Grant’s racial theory in his own manifesto. 

Grant’s book also received praise from Roosevelt. The President called it “a capital book; in purpose, in vision, in grasp of the facts our people most need to realize.” Henry Fairfield Osborn, who headed the New York Zoological Society and the board of trustees of the American Museum of Natural History, wrote a foreword to the book. Osborn argued that “conservation of that race which has given us the true spirit of Americanism is not a matter either of racial pride or of racial prejudice; it is a matter of love of country.” 

Jebediah Purdy further stated that “for these conservationists, who prized the expert governance of resources, it was an unsettlingly short step from managing forests to managing the human gene pool. In a 1909 report to Roosevelt’s National Conservation Commission, Yale professor Irving Fisher broke off from a discussion of public health to recommend preventing “paupers” and physically unhealthy people from reproducing and warned against the “race suicide” that would follow if the country did not replenish itself with Northern European stock. Fisher took the term “race suicide” from Roosevelt, who, in a 1905 speech, had pinned it on women who dodged childbearing. Gifford Pinchot, the country’s foremost theorizer and popularizer of conservation, was a delegate to the first and second International Eugenics Congress, in 1912 and 1921, and a member of the advisory council of the American Eugenics Society, from 1925 to 1935…”

John Muir, on the other hand, referred to the Sambos of Mexico as lazy, Indians as dirty and living an irregular life, and in a 1901 essay referred to them as civilized into useless innocence. 

Jebediah Purdy argued that Muir and his followers are remembered because their respect for non-human life and wild places expanded the boundaries of moral concern. What does it mean that they cared more about “animal people” than about some human beings? The time they lived in is an explanation, but not an excuse. 

For each of those environmentalist icons, the meaning of nature and wilderness was constrained, even produced, by an idea of civilization. Muir’s idea of nature was a pristine refuge from the city. Madison Grant’s idea of nature was the last redoubt of nobility in a levelling and hybridizing democracy. They went to the woods to escape aspects of humanity. They created and preserved versions of the wild that promised to exclude the human qualities they despised. 

These conservationists borrowed their wisdom from literary great Thoreau who once opined that the beauty of nature is insignificant when men are base. The racist acts of conservation were considered an act of purification of the human race. Thus, it did not matter who the victims of displacement were and in what region. Instead, what mattered was the extension and expansion of white purity and control as the only desirable form of humanity.  

Misanthropy is a dislike for humankind, and biologist Paul Ehrlich in his 1968 book “The Population Bomb” defined his taxi ride through a New Delhi slum as a “mob” with a “hellish aspect,” full of “people eating, people washing, people sleeping… People thrusting their hands through the taxi window, begging. People defecating… People, people, people, people.”  He claimed it was during this trip that he came to understand the population emotionally. 

Today, the task we have as the human race, and specifically as Africans and as black people, is to understand the concept of conservation and environmentalism from the lens of the historical figures that created modern day conservation. 

In 1906, a quarter of a million white Americans converged at the Bronx Zoo in New York to witness the exhibition of a young African boy from the Congo called Ota Benga in an iron monkey cage. It’s these racist attitudes that are the driving force behind conservation. Those attitudes also drive  organizations like the World Wildlife Fund to ensure that white supremacy remains a key tenet of human progression. 

The U.S. National Parks, whose latest influencer is former President Barack Obama, is the benchmark for the continuous development of National Parks in Africa. The South Africa National Parks service, which manages over 20 national parks in South Africa, is tasked with ensuring racism and eugenics flourish in South Africa. 

All national parks are a product of displacement of native people to make way for the pooling together of animals for purposes of tourism and trophy hunting that at most can only be afforded by white people. With that said, it should come as no surprise that the bulk of private game farms are owned by white people. 

In 2021, the SANParks and the World Wildlife Fund secured a deal to develop South Africa’s latest national park, the Grasslands National Park. The park encompasses an area of roughly 30 000 hectares starting from West of Maclear stretching along the southern-most reaches of the mountains of the Lesotho border. The most unsettling part of this latest WWF adventure is that this national park, like the others, will have “protected areas.” Those two words are really just code words for white supremacy preservation. 

The WWF is also working with PepsiCo in privatizing water provision, culminating in a multi-year agreement with a focus on “improving” water security in South Africa. In 2021, Table Mountain National Park and SANParks received R30 million share of funding from the French government for purposes of biodiversity co-operation with the Reunion Island. The funding is not an act of nobility, but rather the French ensuring that their reach in Africa is preserved through white supremacy conservation methods. 

The reach of these conservation  organizations runs across all African countries. The many Land Acts enacted by colonial authorities and espoused in the language of “property rights” ensure that white supremacists can displace as many black people as they can. Even during periods of political liberation, the incoming black political administrators inherit a system of native displacement that first and foremost gets its protection from the National Park Service.  

There can never be true conservation when indigenous people are pushed away from their natural and ancestral fields. All the problems of nature that exist today are creations of western forms of conservation. This includes trophy hunting, whose licensing is almost the sole preserve of white people from Europe and the United States. 

While racist fossils like Pinchot, Muir, and Madison Grant have passed on, their ideologies still govern the conservation narrative. Individuals like Klaus Schwab, Bill Gates, Jeff Bezos, and David Attenborough are taking the lead role in keeping racist and eugenics attitudes of conservation alive. 

Bill Gates, for example, now owns the most farmland in the USA. When asked why he had purchased so much land in a Reddit Q&A session, Gates said, 

“The agriculture sector is important. With more productive seeds we can avoid deforestation and help Africa deal with the climate difficulty they already face. It is unclear how cheap biofuels can be but if they are cheap it can solve the aviation and truck emissions.” 

This was classic Bill Gates acting as the Godfather of Africa. This is a man who had vested interests in Monsanto. Jeff Bezos created his Bezos Earth Fund which serves as his vehicle for conservation, yet, ironically, he’s involved in a tussle with a group of indigenous people in Cape Town as he tries to push them away from their ancestral land so he can construct Amazon Africa HQ. 

After his four-minute journey to space, Bezos pledged $2 billion for land restoration in Africa and claimed the trip changed his view of the earth. Gordon Brown’s eugenics right-hand-man Johan Eliasch bought himself 400,000 acres of the Amazon rainforest in 2006 for $14 million and asked supporters to help him buy up tracts of Brazil and Ecuador through his charity Cool Earth. The 400 000 acres of Amazon land were purchased from a logging company.  

This shows how private companies are complicit in the subjugation and displacement of indigenous people, and unjust protection from the law is their trump card. 

There is a direct relationship between racism, eugenics, displacement, and depopulation. Wildlife conservation is the ultimate testing ground for human depopulation and control. The proponents of wildlife control are also the cheerleaders of Big Pharma’s means of population control through coercive vaccination programs. 

Our continued hospitality towards modern conservation is leading to our eventual extinction. What they are doing with trophy hunting, presented as a conservation method, is exactly what they are doing with mandatory vaccinations. Population reduction is a sport to these monsters of white supremacy. 

As Africans, our natural life is governed by natural methods of preservation and never once required colonists to intervene. In Nigeria in the mid-90s, activist Ken Saro-Wiwa was executed after he succeeded in pushing French oil giant Shell out of Ogoni for causing environmental devastation. His execution was a result of connivance between Shell and Nigerian leader General Abache. 

Africans need to stand up to stooges of white supremacy in government, private conservation organizations pursuing European interests, and the billionaires whose acts of philanthropy are channeled towards causing harm to humanity and preserving legacies of yesteryear racists.

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Gugulethu Hughes


Gugulethu Hughes is the ScoonTV Africa correspondent

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