Monday, June 11, 2007

death of the commons

Not exactly news, I guess, just one more way of life curtailed. The Washington Post reported this week on the plight of the Hadzabe people of the Yaeda Valley of Tanzania. These hunter-gatherer people are being threatened by a royal family member of the UAE who is leasing their ancient hunting lands from the Tanzanian government so that he can have an uncrowded hunting preserve for his private use. The Hadzabe people have been trying to get along in the changing world for the last many centuries, and they seem resigned to the inevitability of this unfair financial arrangement, but they wish that someone might have thought to ask them what they thought about the matter before it became a fact of their lives. Of course no one did ask them.

To say that I feel sick when I hear of unfairnesses like this doesn't adequately represent my feelings about the matter. In a far less significant level, I resent the dozens of no trespassing signs around my home place here in north-central Minnesota. Tiny insults visible every day remind of the values most important to us. So much, if not all, of the energies of the world seem to be spent on rounding up the resources of the earth, fencing them off from the people who once lived there, and then spending huge sums of people's lives and money guarding the fences. Now we're in the process of agreeing to build a new fence between us and the Republic of Mexico. And we have a similar very costly fence, with openings only for oil, between us and Iraq. And yes, I have a fence around my farm.