The American Interest
Analysis by Walter Russell Mead & Staff
How To Save the Planet and Help the Poor in 2013

At this time of year thought naturally turns to New Year’s resolutions, and there’s one that the team at Via Meadia is thinking hard about making.

Resolve to do something this year that will help poor people in rural areas of Africa, promote healthy African development, and help preserve endangered wildlife. And have a thrilling good time while you’re at it.

Go on safari in Africa.

It’s not crazy. You can do a lot to boost local economies and help develop rural Africa in a healthy way by going on a safari. In Kenya, for instance, at least one former poacher turned to protecting his former prey—the elephant—when he realized that tourism is more valuable to him and his community than ivory.

This is not unique. In the quest for quick and dirty money, poachers across Africa are systematically killing one of the continent’s most valuable resources, and adding to the instability that keeps tourists away while they’re at it. But the best hope for Africa’s endangered species and wilderness areas is for a healthy tourist trade to bring so much money into the region that the local people unite to defend and protect their walking meal tickets.

Safaris don’t come cheap, but they don’t have to cost an arm and a leg, and there are few experiences on this earth that compare with seeing lions, cheetahs, elephants, rhinoceros, giraffes, zebras and hippos in their native environment. If there are children in your family, it’s an experience they will never forget.

These are hard times, and even in good times many hard working Americans don’t exactly have a lot of extra cash lying around. This isn’t a resolution for everyone, and we would not advise taking on a lot of expensive credit card debt to splurge on a big trip. For most of us, a trip like this is a once in a lifetime opportunity; we’d just like to suggest that our readers make sure to put this one on their bucket list.

But in a time when so many do-gooders wear hair shirts and talk about impending doom, we’d like to remind readers that there are plenty of ways to have a great time while making a contribution.  More American tourism in Africa will make the world a better place, help save some of the earth’s most wonderful wilderness areas, and create jobs and open opportunities for Africa’s rural poor.

So, dear readers, resolve to do your duty in this coming year. If a safari is too much of a stretch think about other ways that you can do things you enjoy in ways that help others make a living or protect nature closer to home.

Published on December 31, 2012 8:13 pm