A Reaction to “Africa’s Environment: The Final Frontier, Hearing Before the Subcommittee on Africa of the Committee on International Relations House of Representatives, One Hundred Fourth Congress, Second Session, July 17, 1996.”


  • Richard R. Marcus


Without a doubt, the very fact that such a hearing as “Africa’s Environment: The Final Frontier” took place is a victory for all those concerned with the relationship between people and the environment in which they live. This is a public recognition that, as the Honorable Ros-Lehtinen stated, “the need to protect the environment knows no municipal, state or national border. The environmental damage to one region of the world necessarily affects the global environment.” In Africa, the pressures on the environment are especially acute as conservation is so tightly linked to land use, land use change, sustainable development, and the quality of governance at the local and national levels. The critical nature of the problem has produced a sizable number of environmental heroes. Certainly there is no challenging the personal strength and community accomplishments of Wangari Mathai or Ken Saro-Wiwa. Donor and international NGO efforts to work with such local leaders, to bridge disciplinary cleavages, to reform devastating agricultural practices, and to empower people in their local communities can only be commended. In this, the international community, and many host countries, have reached a consensus. Indeed, we can even speak of a growing global norm positing that environmental challenges are no longer domestic or functional concerns. They are, in fact, critical challenges to national security, global security and human well-being.