SO/PJ/envs 436: environment & energy community-Based Learning Project Darwin’s Nightmare

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Community-Based Learning Project

Darwin’s Nightmare
Due Thursday, April 12

  1. In the 1950s, the British colonial government released Nile Perch into Lake Victoria. Investigate how and why this happened. Why would the Brits do this? What effect has it had on the Lake and on the people who depend upon the Lake? Dig deep. Has a similar ‘experiment’ happened in other countries? If so, how has the situation played out? Is there a way that science has been able to compensate in other ecosystems to right this wrong? Might there be a way in the instance of Lake Victoria?

  1. Investigate Newmont Mining Company, an international company which is based here in Denver. Specifically spend time learning about the No Dirty Gold initiative and Stop Newmont Mining campaign that activists have waged against Newmont and other similar companies. Focus your research on the effect that Newmont has had in Ghana. Request CU student Dustin Crann’s undergraduate thesis on the topic (email Melissa Nix at for a copy of Dustin’s work). After you’ve taken the time to educate yourself on Newmont and its work in Ghana, interview Ghanaian national, Mr. Awon Atuire, to see what his take is on Newmont’s presence in his native land. Contact Awon today to set up an interview: 303.458.4188 or If more than one student is doing this assignment be sure to contact and interview Awon together. What is Denver’s responsibility around this issue, given that Newmont is based here? Once you’ve seen Darwin’s Nightmare, make comparisons with the instance provided in the film and the work of Newmont.

  1. Learn more about the tribes and people that lived around Lake Victoria prior to 1850, when the British introduced the Nile Perch and cash crops into the area. Compare what you learn about these peoples prior to 1850 with the people that now live around Lake Victoria. How have their lives changed? What effect has the change in Lake Victoria had on native cultures of people? What role has the environment and politics played in native peoples’ lives?

  1. Learn more about what plant species and crops are indigenous to the areas in Kenya, Tanzania, and Uganda that surround Lake Victoria. Learn more about what specific cash crops have been planted around Lake Victoria in these three countries and examine the effect of these non-indigenous cash crops both economically and environmentally on the countries.

  1. Organizations such as the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund hail the Nile Perch as the economic salvation of Tanzania. Do some research of your own to find out what types of initiatives the World Bank and the IMF have funded at Lake Victoria and explore to what degree you feel they’ve aided the economic development of Tanzania. Examine how this so-called ‘economic development’ has affected Tanzania. How has the drive for economic development in Tanzania complemented or killed environmental development?

  1. Research the more recent history of conflict and war within Tanzania and surrounding countries. Learn what type of instruments of war and guns are primarily used in these conflicts. What countries are the guns coming from and how are they coming into Tanzania and surrounding countries? What effect has war had on the people? What effect has it had on the environment? Make sure that you read more about Tanzanian investigative journalist, Richard Mgamba, who is quoted in Darwin’s Nightmare as speaking to the infusion of arms into his country. What has happened to him since he participated in the film?

  1. Darwin’s Nightmare is set in Mwanza, Tanzania. Learn about Mwanza. What is life like there? What do people do for their livelihood? What might it be like to be a child growing in Mwanza? What are the chances for children to grow up healthy and well educated there? Take a look at poverty rates in this, the second largest city in Tanzania. Compare what urban and rural poverty look like in Tanzania. How does poverty affect the people? What is the affect of poverty on the environment? What might a right to dignity and self-determination look like to the people of Mwanza? Note where your research is coming from and the potential bias of your sources. Don’t use tourist-focused propaganda.

  1. Educate yourself about what’s called “the scramble for Africa” and examine the heavy mark that European nations have left on Africa. Once you’ve got a solid grasp on this concept, see how this imperialistic notion continues throughout many African nations today in what will be termed “the scramble for natural resources” in Darwin’s Nightmare. Choose a particular African nation and see how this plays out. What have the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund, and the World Trade Organization had to do with this? What effect does all of this have on the local environment in African nations and upon the global environment?

  1. Learn about the controversy that surrounds Darwin’s nightmare. What are some people’s qualms about the film? Who are these people and where might their interests lie? Become a real sleuth on this one, not taking any one side for granted. See if you can find first an article from 2006 published in Le Monde by Frenchman Francois Garcon and then in 2007 a book by the same author entitled The Other Side of Darwin’s Nightmare and get a sense of what the criticism is all about and how well founded it is (please note that this may all be in French and not easy to find). What are Tanzanians saying about the film and can you find the voice not only of the country’s dignitaries but also of the common folk?

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