13 August 2009

Save the gorillas *and* the carbon

Here, slightly edited, is a comment I just posted in response to Stephen Fry's article Why turtles make me cry:
Stephen Fry says "if people don't go to Uganda then the gorillas will die....the only way of paying for the mountain rangers to keep them alive is for people to go to Bwindi Impenetrable Forest...and see them."

I disagree. It is possible to get people to support projects and initiatives they have not seen and will not see first hand, especially in the age of the Internet.

One example of the way to go is Oxfam's 'Unwrapped' in which you 'give' a present to a friend such as 100 school meals in a poor African country. The friend does not receive and does not sees the meals (except, perhaps in a photograph) but has the satisfaction of knowing that some children who may otherwise go hungry are getting a square meal. Another example are the thousands who support global political campaigns by the organisation Avaaz to support the rights and dignity of people they may never meet (such as the Burmese people).

I hold no brief for Oxfam, Avaaz or other organisations which use 'virtual' strategies such as these. I just suggest they are examples of the kind of things that demonstrably work.

I think the efforts of Richard Leakey and colleagues can be supported in a similar way.

All we need (!) are imagination, organization and energy. Stephen Fry can help.

Call me an idealist, but we have to try to save gorillas (and other charismatic species) without making an unnecessary additional contribution to the already high risk of dangerous anthropogenic climate change.

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