Category Archives: Environment

Cut a Forest and Put a Man on the Moon

Yesterday a Ugandan man and I were planning an environmental education training for teachers. He was lamenting the poor state of the environment in Uganda and said that he wished Ugandans had the same sense of responsibility towards the environment that Americans have. He said “why can’t we Ugandans see the value of the environment and the forests?”

I pointed out to him that the United States has actually cut down 98% of our original forests, and that we aren’t exactly model citizens from an environmental perspective.

His response was “Yes, but you have something to show for it. We cut down our forests and have nothing – you cut down your forests and put a man on the moon.”

He has a certain point. The rampant resource extraction of the 1800s in the United States made us a very rich country, and until recently that wealth was spread much more evenly across society than it is in many other parts of the world.

So here’s my question to you: Why was the United States able to create national wealth from our resources when Uganda’s resources are just making a few people very rich?

Mark D. Jordahl – Kampala
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Creative Approach to Saving Paper

You know those people who just have to print out every e-mail they get, and every document that gets forwarded to them? I have frequently found myself thinking hard about whether or not to include somebody on an e-mail with an attachment because I know they will print it out, even if it they’ll never look at it again. Entire forests get needlessly cut down for these people.

Well, the Worldwide Fund for Nature (WWF) has come up with a solution. They have developed a PDF-type format that can’t be printed out. That’s right – if you send a party announcement, memo or other document to these folks, you can first save it as a WWF document and know that you have not been an accomplice to the early demise of a Douglas fir or western hemlock tree.

Will it catch on? Who knows, but at least it is creative, and anyone who downloads the free software will probably give some though to whether they want to send their documents as PDFs or WWFs.

So far it is only available for Mac operating systems, but a Windows version should be coming soon.

For more information, go to Save as WWF, Save a Tree

Mark D. Jordahl – Kampala Continue reading

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Environmental Sustainability at St. John's Teachers College

This post is dedicated to my friend, David Cook, who said I was starting to depress him with the environmental news out of Uganda. He was right to call me on it – when I started writing this blog, my goal was to have a good balance between challenges and hope, but somehow the balance has been tipped in favor of the challenges. It has been hard to be hopeful with oil drilling happening in the national parks, and the corruption of the newly disbanded Uganda Wildlife Authority board (who are still trying to get payments out of the UWA accounts!).

However, as is so often the case in Africa (and elsewhere, I guess), the problems are often at the higher levels, and the hope comes from the grassroots. I honestly have very little faith that the Ugandan government has the will to protect the environment in this country in any way. I have a personal policy here, though – whenever I get discouraged about the future of Uganda, I try to spend more time with individual Ugandans. That’s what reignites my hope and reminds me why I am here.

I had that opportunity this week at the St. John the Baptist Primary Teachers College here in Kampala. It is one of the leading teacher colleges in East Africa, and about 2,000 students attend each year from the five countries in the EAC. The college has a very active environmental club that has partnered with Tusk Trust, Uganda Conservation Foundation and Siren Conservation Education to implement some model sustainability projects that the newly trained teachers can implement in the schools where they are ultimately placed. With 2,000 teachers being exposed to this every year, you can imagine how many children will be exposed to the importance of environmentally sustainable practices.

The project looked at some of the main environmental challenges confronting the college, which also happen to be some of the biggest challenges facing Africa as a whole:

* Water
* Fuelwood for cooking
* Maintaining good food harvests
* Waste management
* Income generation

Below are some pictures of what they have put in place in each of these areas: Continue reading

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Murchison Falls Continues to be Museveni's Punching Bag (or Punchline)

Can this really be happening? Murchison Falls National Park seems to be Museveni’s punching bag. First, it was opened up for unlimited oil drilling, and now he is demanding that the Madhvani Group, the owners of Paraa and Chobe Lodges, be allowed to build a golf course within the park. Clearly he does not take the concept of “National Park” seriously.

I think building a Wal-Mart or a 24-hour Nakumatt at the Top of the Falls would be a reasonable next step. Continue reading

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Uganda’s Mountain Parks Might Be the Last Refuge in a Changed Climate

The Rwenzori Mountains and Mount Elgon, the bookends of Uganda, may provide a last bastion for biodiversity in Uganda in a changing climate. While these mountainous national parks get fewer visitors and fewer conservation dollars than the savanna parks with their charismatic wildlife, they might turn out to be the most important ones to protect. Continue reading

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Solar Panels Have Potential to be 10 Times More Efficient

Solar cells thinner than wavelengths of light hold huge power potential, Stanford researchers say. Continue reading

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World Gone Mad | Derrick Jensen | Orion Magazine

The most recent issue of Orion Magazine includes an article by Derrick Jensen, a pretty edgy environmental writer, looking at the psychopathic tendencies of modern society in its attitudes towards the planet.  I have certainly seen our relationship to the … Continue reading

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New Vision Online : Top Wildlife bosses suspended over graft

I have a feeling it is not a coincidence that this story (see below) has come out soon after the suspension of the hunting licenses.  It seems that the new board at Uganda Wildlife Authority is taking its responsibilities seriously. … Continue reading

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Why Do Ugandans Hate Trees?

The buzz of chainsaws is ringing in my ears as I write this. I live in Kampala, next door to a large lot that was a school up until about a month ago, lush with big trees and flowering bushes. The trees are frequent hosts to numerous falcons, weavers, turacos, gonaleks and a number of other birds, in addition to countless butterflies and lizards. I have always envied the green shadiness of those school grounds when I compare it to the sparse compound in which I live.

But recently the mzungus who ran the school moved out, and within just a few weeks, the chainsaws have decimated most of what once lived on those beautiful grounds. Continue reading

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Gulf Oil Spill: A Call to (Wrong) Action

Is it just me, or are we once again missing the point? We seem so stuck in old frames of reference that we now look for what is politically realistic rather than what is right and needed. Continue reading

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