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Analysis: To Copenhagen With Hope (A Nostrum for Conservationists) 

By Peterkins Manyong

Tiger, tiger, burning bright/
In the forests of the night
What invisible hand or eye/
Could frame thy fearful symmetry?

These awe-inspiring lines of  William Blake in the poem "The Tiger" have been quoted here not only to appreciate the romantic poet’s ability to depict the aesthetics (beauty) of the tiger itself, but  to express the  concern that future generations may never know that such a creature once existed, except by reading about it. The following account may further illustrate the point.
A story once circulated in the Ngoketunjia Village of Baba I about a leopard, which many villagers mistook for a tiger. The animal was allegedly seen in the vicinity of the palace.

It not only went to the "Ngumba" or village secret society house, but terrorized the neighbourhood. As if to convince the villagers that it was a physical reality, not a figment of anybody’s imagination, a claw mark was reportedly seen on the palace gate. The animal was said to have chased a child who ran into the palace banging the door immediately behind him. On another occasion, the leopard was encircled in the kitchen of a queen and made good its escape through the window. Within the week that the story made its rounds the villagers lived in joyful fear.

The above anecdote, which the village Fon, Fuekemshi II, did not confirm, demonstrates just how much the rural community misses some of the wild animals which were a familiar sight in the days of yore. It is certainly this nostalgia that inspired Fon Gwan Mbanyamsig III of Guzang’s very moving presentation during the launch of the association "Cameroon Traditional Rulers Against Climate Change, CTRACC," in Bamenda on Friday, November 13. The account was enriched with details of how tradition and nature have always co-existed. He said tradition forbade the cutting down of young trees and the killing of female animals.

All sensible persons agreed with him that our relationship with nature should be symbiotic, not parasitic; that we should not exploit the environment selfishly and irresponsibly. We should not cut down a tree without planting two or more others in its place. Today, the extremists of western religions and cultures would agree that they would not be alive to preach about heaven and hell if there is no earth to sustain them. That is why the efforts the paramount ruler of Tamale, Ghana, who advocates the extension of the sacred grove, is commendable.

The rainmakers, who have since been deposed from their elevated positions, should be encouraged to resume their economically vital supernatural role. Fon Mbanyamsig was equally concerned about the discord in nature whereby there is no clear cut distinction between one season and another. All this sums up the anger of mother earth because of man’s irresponsible exploitation of nature’s goodies.

Certainly, the Fon is not alone. Conservationists agree that unless tough measures are taken, the next 50 years will see the world uninhabitable. Not measures like the one by Forestry and Wildlife officials in Bamenda recently which resulted in the death of a woman. Such excesses can only spoil a legitimate case. As Fon Mbanyamsig III and all those who attended the launch of CTRACC agreed, we need concerted effort not antagonism.

The politics of Martin Tubuo (Prince Yerima Afo-Akom) is certainly not as good as his environmental knowledge and commitment. Other musicians should join him in the fight with the understanding that their own very survival depends on the survival of the earth. At a global level, enough funds must be placed at the disposal of those fighting the climate change scourge, which the eloquent traditional ruler we have been quoting said is more grievous and devastating than terrorism and HIV/AIDS.

It is now an established fact that life on planet earth is possible today because of Africa and Latin America. The industrialised nations wasted their flora and fauna goaded by the Augustan notion that civilization means carving urbanities out of nature. This explains why, for instance, as early as the 19th century, English writers like Samuel Johnson described the lion an extinct animal. Today, Europeans have to visit Africa which Joseph Conrad describes as "The Heart of Darkness" to see species of animals and plants they mistook for nonexistent.

The industries which have made the West so rich and arrogant produce greenhouse gases which the technology of its scientists cannot enable them dispose of. These gases have to be absorbed by the Amazon forest and that of the Congo Basin. For preserving its forests, the countries in these regions have to be heavily compensated as a right not a favour. Western sophists rejected the call for compensation for the slave trade that helped enrich them and impoverish Africa both intellectually and economically. These countries have taken away too much for the owners not to see. This is no "preaching revolution" as the venerated late Miriam Makeba put it. This is giving things their appropriate names.

Ahead of the Copenhagen Climate Change summit in December, forestry ministers of the African Sub region have pledged to speak with one voice. Elvis Ngolle Ngolle co-chaired a meeting to that effect in Yaoundé with Emmanuel Bizote, Central Africa’s Minister of Forest, Fisheries and Hunting. Although personally, an incorruptible person, Ngolle Ngolle serves a corrupt and anti-people regime that is preoccupied with clinging to power; a regime, which, rather than combat poverty, fights the poor.

It is, therefore, very likely that any compensation will not get into the pockets of those communities who are daily called upon to sacrifice so as to maintain their flora and fauna. The pigmies who occupy most of the Congo basin remain about the most marginalized race of people in the world .We can’t continue to expect sacrifices from such people without a correspondent compensation for these sacrifices. This is the crust, the hard pieces of bread that the Copenhagen Summit attendants must be prepared to chew next December. Bon pied la route.

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