March 28, 2005
darwin's nightmare
Posted by Allison Christians

During my trip to Tanzania I reflected a lot about the patterns that have been created by globalization, in this country and throughout the world.  Patterns of work and family, of investment and trade, of action and reaction.

I’ve heard the global mobility of capital described as “footloose.” The image seems apt: dancing here and there, thoroughly unpredictable and unreliable, a fair-weather friend. A nation reliant on a fixed number of industries and on foreign capital to grow those industries is surely subject to a fickle master.  It's easy to wonder how things will proceed in this survival of the financially fittest.

No small shock then, upon learning yesterday of a film entitled "Darwin's nightmare," which has already won international acclaim and will be screened in select cities throughout the year.  The film is about some of the unexpected results of globalization.

The subject is the introduction of a fish--the nile perch--into Tanzania's Lake Victoria.  The perch extinguished almost the entire stock of the native fish species but "multiplied so fast that its white fillets are today exported all around the world," creating a global market in which "cargo planes come daily to collect the latest catch in exchange for their southbound cargo … Kalashnikovs and ammunitions for the uncounted wars in the dark center of the continent," even as the country fails to feed itself.  The description goes on: "This booming multinational industry of fish and weapons has created an ungodly globalized alliance on the shores of the world’s biggest tropical lake: an army of local fishermen, World bank agents, homeless children, African ministers, EU-commissioners, Tanzanian prostitutes and Russian pilots."  I look forward to seeing the film, but fear it will cement my growing unease with how Tanzania and other developing countries can fare in this footloose globalized world.

The experience in Tanzania, too short though it was, gave me much to think about and much work to do.  Writing this blog as I went presented many challenges--both technical and intellectual! Thanks so much to Gordon and Christine for the opportunity to have a voice in cyberspace. 

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