NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

The Human Cost Of Green Imperialism

July 31, 2000

The U.S. State Department, the World Bank and other aid organizations have often made aid to developing countries contingent on the creation of national parks. These efforts to protect wild lands have come at considerable human cost, say anthropologists.

  • Environmentalists have succeeded in protecting an area altogether the size of China, the United States and Canada.
  • Approximately 70 percent of the protected areas are inhabited by Homo Sapiens as well as other species.
  • Between 1986 and 1996, about three million people were forced to move as a result of development and conservation projects, according to World Bank statistics.

Many of these were extremely poor indigenous people.

  • The world's first national park, Yellowstone, specifically excluded people from living there -- and after the creation of the park in 1871, some 300 Shoshone residents were killed in conflicts with the Army.
  • In Africa, the establishment of big game parks in Kenya and Tanzania involved mass expulsion of the Masai people.
  • In Madagascar, rain forest villagers were forced to leave nature preserves in the 1940s -- and 20,000 were killed in conflicts with colonial authorities.

Expulsions have continued at big parks in Kenya, Botswana, Indonesia and Sri Lanka, says Marcus Colchester of the Rain Forest People's Program, and in enlarging Kaietur National Park, Guyana recently extinguished the rights of local residents.

But environmentalists say they now recognize local cooperation is essential. For instance, Nepal recently reversed its policy of preventing local residents from entering the forest: now they have certain weeks to collect grasses and plants for baskets and building materials, as long as they don't use mechanized tools.

Source: Alexander Stille, "In the 'Greened' World, It Isn't Easy to Be Human," New York Times, July 15, 2000.


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