Thinking about change… apparently it is out of context. Is it? As far as I remember, this journey started throughout an intensive inner drive to do something good. Something meaningful. We wanted to change the way things work. At least a little bit. However, today it seems all too obvious that we are at the brink of a global problem and the more Klara and I travel the more it comes to our eyes what long-term impact our past and present mistakes as a global society have.
|Unimaginable that all you can see here was covered by rainforest just a couple of years ago|
Andasibe in Madagascar is surrounded by rainforest. One can hear the whale like singing of Indris. Crested Drongo birds are the supporting act. Brown lemurs' grunts make the beat. Rain drops and cicadas open the curtain for an atmospheric dusk. Hard to imagine that it was like that all over the eastern island. Now, within that remaining spot of purity, hidden and guarded by dogs, soldiers and fences, a giant area of pure red mud disseminates like a disease. The biggest and most expensive mine project Madagascar has ever seen. The Ambatovy cobalt and nickel mine, managed primarily by Sherritt Mining company from Canada, right in the heart of the Mantadia National Park, is an operation that looks like an enormous wound bashed into nature in order to please the needs of western and eastern culture. As average people, we were neither allowed to go there, nor even come close to it. Although their website speaks another language, they protect their mine from any journalist or photographer or tourist or citizen. By all means. And they do a pretty good job in doing so...
This certain mine project is an extraordinary example for todays decadence and ignorance and greed. You might guess that it had economical value at least, thus being good for the people of Madagascar in an inconvenient but necessary way. Thinking of Madagascar as the 5th poorest country of the world the assumption is alluring. A closer look unmasks an unfortunate veneer. Most Madagassy are not trained enough to work in these projects. Therefor it happens that mostly e.g. underpaid Korean employees invade the area. The mine has its own airport, its own hotels, even its own fitness studio. All our sources - people of the area, members of reforestation and conservation projects, even sophisticated hotel managers and travel guides - told us, that contracts about and around the mine lead most of the money directly into few Madagassy politicians' pockets. The rest of the profit goes to several banks and the Canadian corporation that owns it all. Although the infrastructure is well provided in order to get the mine going, people from the area can hardly make a benefit out of it at the very least..
|Mostly small wooden huts of poor but happy people who live by and with the remaining rainforest around them|
However, its not the only mine project in Mantadia National Park - but the only there that has primarily global relevance. Our research led us into villages, hours away from common roads, through wetlands, over cyclon damaged train tracks and along forest left overs. By pretending to be students of Anthropology we managed to get access to an illegal gold mine where villagers and children dig over their whole area just to find one gram of gold a day. Which equals to 7 dollar a day for all of them. The gold is not only sold for jewelry, but also for technical devices all over the world. So, instead of supporting reforestation, these people make more money by doing the opposite. Even with a multi billion dollar project next door these people have barely another chance if they want to survive..
|Villagers try to make a living and work in a gold mine, seven days a week, together with their whole family|
So what has it to do with you or me? Nearly everything. Several heated discussions about where to start with change made the beginning. One strong question remains: Why not caring for the people and the places around our own homes? Care for things that affect us directly? Isn't that the place to begin with? Well, honestly, it is not! Because every cell phone you've got, every computer you use, every single exotic fruit you eat, TV you watch, game you play and piece of clothing you buy can be traced back to a project like that certain mine in Andasibe. We have a global impact. And global issues have an impact on us. The times of buying a rake directly from your village smith are just over. There evolves a need to become aware of that. Everytime you think of getting the latest IPhone although you already have the previous version of it, you unnecessarily contribute to the destruction of rainforest, the extinction of rare species and the poverty of millions of people. Isn't it all too obvious that world's countries are no longer autarkic systems. Our world somehow has become a web of global corporatism. Maybe we lost the sensitivity ages ago, but a growing number of people raise awareness and are willing to do something.
So why should we care again? Because we can! We don't need much to make a difference. Going into a rainforest like that of Mantadia in a respectful and moderate way gives much more aid to the people in that area and therewith to nature than any dollar you donate via internet or whatsoever. Show interest. People will better understand the value of the forest and the nature simply if many people share interest with them. Make a visit. People profit from visitors who buy directly from them instead of indirectly from an uncertain supermarket. Enjoy the wonders that nature provides for you. Others will follow. Spend your time with simple things and there is no need for luxury products that boost exploitation. Of course, you don't have to stop your lifestyle totally. Enjoy life. Do what you love. Just live a little more simple, a little more pleased, a little more aware with what you've got. Because if millions of people take just one tiny step back, it will be a giant leap for all of us...
|Klara facing deforested hills: erosion washes minerals away and the fast growing grass prevents trees from re-emerging|