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Anthropologist Jane Goodall: China is pillaging Africa like an old colonial power

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China is exploiting Africa’s resources just like European colonisers did, with disastrous effects for the environment, acclaimed primatologist Jane Goodall has told AFP.

On the eve of her 80th birthday, the fiery British wildlife crusader is whizzing across the world giving a series of lectures on the threats to our planet.

And the rising world power’s involvement on the continent especially raises alarms when it comes to her beloved chimpanzees and wildlife habitats.

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During the last decade China has been investing heavily in African natural resources, developing mines, oil wells and running related construction companies.

Activists accuse Chinese firms of paying little attention to the environmental impact of their race for resources.

“In Africa, China is merely doing what the colonialist did. They want raw materials for their economic growth, just as the colonialists were going into Africa and taking the natural resources, leaving people poorer,” she told AFP in an interview in Johannesburg.

The stakes for the environment may even be larger this time round, she warns.

“China is bigger, and the technology has improved… It is a disaster.”

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Other than massive investment in Africa’s mines, China is also a big market for elephant tusks and rhino horn, which has driven poaching of these animals to alarming heights.

But Goodall, who rose to fame through her ground-breaking research on chimpanzees in Tanzania, is optimistic.

“I do believe China is changing,” she said, citing as one example Beijing’s recent destruction of illegal ivory stockpiles.

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“I think 10 years ago, even with international pressure, we would never have had an ivory crush. But they have,” she added.

“I think 10 years ago the government would never have banned shark fin soup on official occasions. But they have.”

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– ‘Small window of time’ –

Her organisation Roots and Shoots, founded over two decades ago to instil conservation values in children, has also become involved in China.

“We work with hundreds of Chinese children, and they are not different from children we work with here. They all love nature, they love animals, they want to help, there’s no difference because they’re Chinese,” she said.

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Young people’s enthusiasm to change the world is a major reason to hope, for this lady with seemingly inexhaustible energy who can still keep an auditorium hanging on her words for more than an hour.

“These young people will become the next parents, the next teachers, the next lawyers, the next business people and the next politicians, some of them.”

“The biggest problem is that people understand but don’t know what to do,” she said.

“If you have one thousand, one million or eventually several million people all making the right choice, all thinking about the consequence of their behaviour, then we’re going to see big change.”

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Another glimmer of hope is “this amazing resilience of nature,” she continued, citing as an example the China’s Loess Plateau on the Yellow River bouncing back after massive soil erosion.

“It was set to be the biggest totally destroyed ecosystem in the world,” she said.

A $400-million project funded by the Chinese government and international donors introduced better farming methods in the area, which greatly reduced erosion and lifted 2.5 million people out of poverty, according to the World Bank.

“That took a lot of money, but if you look at it now, it’s all green, lush and farmland, and children have come back from the cities. It’s even got a whole area for wildlife,” said Goodall.

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“We still have a small window of time to change things.”

[Image via Agence France-Presse]


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Anger, relief but no joy as UN climate talks limp to an end

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A marathon UN summit wrapped up Sunday with little to show, squeezing hard-earned compromises from countries over a global warming battle plan that fell well short of what science says is needed to tackle the climate crisis.

The COP25 deal "expresses the urgent need" for new carbon cutting commitments to close the gap between current emissions and the Paris treaty goal of capping temperature at below two degrees, host country Spain said in a statement.

"Today the citizens of the world are asking for us to move ahead faster and better, in financing, adaptation, mitigation," Carolina Schmidt, Chilean environment minister and President of COP25, told the closing plenary.

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UK opposition chief Corbyn ‘sorry’ for election wipeout

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Britain's main opposition leader Jeremy Corbyn apologised Sunday for waging a disastrous campaign that handed Prime Minister Boris Johnson a mandate to take the UK out of the EU next month.

But the veteran socialist defended his far-left platform and blamed the media for helping relegate his century-old party to its worst performance since before World War II.

"I will make no bones about it. The election result on Thursday was a body blow for everyone who so desperately needs real change in our country," Corbyn wrote in the Sunday Mirror newspaper.

"I wanted to unite the country that I love but I'm sorry that we came up short and I take my responsibility for it."

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The real outrage of the Afghanistan war papers that no one wants to talk about

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On Monday, December 9, The Washington Post released a confidential trove of 2,000 pages of government documents that revealed that senior U.S. officials repeatedly failed to tell the truth about the war in Afghanistan. They document in detail a practice of lying, deception and whitewashing that covered up unmistakable evidence that the war had no grand plan, no end in sight and no consistent leadership.

This article first appeared in Salon.

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