Faculty Voice: Meredith Gore
Looking back on my busy week, I realized that my itinerary to some degree illustrates why I do what I do to protect the biodiversity of Madagascar. I’ve had the good fortune to collaborate with Malagasy civil society group Alliance Voahary Gasy on a participatory risk-mapping workshop in Manopana, Madagascar, held a press conference with 40 Malagasy journalists, given an anti-corruption workshop in the capital city of Antananarivo, and met with the president, faculty, and students at the University of Toamasina.
In less than two weeks, I’ve traveled more than 400 kilometers by truck, ferry (loosely defined), and by foot over unpaved national roads with killer potholes; given guest lectures in English that have been translated into Malagasy, French and German; viewed a stockpile of illegally harvested rosewood, recently confiscated by authorities; and sampled a delicious array of “mof balls” (variations of fried bread served all over the country).
During my stay, the status of biodiversity conservation in Madagascar was covered by Thomas Friedman with the New York Times. He was in Madagascar while I was here and published two provocative editorials, “Maybe in America” and “What is News?”
Declining natural resources in Madagascar, as elsewhere, have huge implications for human well being, and natural resources are being exploited at alarmingly increasing rates around this beautiful country. Madagascar is considered the “hottest biodiversity hotspot” and is often at the frontlines of this issue.
The question I’m often asked, though, is why am I here and why does MSU care about the people and biodiversity of Madagascar? I tell people I’m interested in understanding how the natural resource declines serve as a cause and a consequence of crime.
Madagascar’s precious hardwood stocks of rosewood, ebony, and pallisander are being illegally exploited and, according to a recent UN report, are helping to finance international terrorist cells. This and other types of environmental crime, such as the illegal trade in the critically endangered ploughshare tortoise abroad for the exotic pet trade, undermine sustainable development investments and activities.
On this, my fifth visit to Madagascar since 2008, I’m working to help characterize the human dimensions of natural resource exploitation and improve the efficacy of natural resource governance.
Other years, I have taught a study abroad course for MSU. This trip, as a Global Research Fellow, MSU supported my travel to enhance my research connections and capacity, pursue extramural funding for my work, and build capacity to contribute to MSU’s interdisciplinary teaching in conservation criminology. It has been a really busy and fulfilling trip; what an honor to be able to collaborate with such motivated Malagasy conservationists!