Thursday, January 9, 2014

Where have all the trees gone?

In many African capitals the ancient trees that once shaded colonial boulevards are being cut down, often for stated "safety" reasons, but usually the easy answer is not the true answer.  As recent conflicts in Africa demonstrate, the national government doesn't have to control the entire country to be the internationally recognized head of state, just the capital.  In many places the national government doesn't really try to govern border regions.  However, the capital is sacred and must be protected at all costs in order to preserve the head of state.  In the Central African Republic a "red-line" was drawn to keep the Seleka rebel coalition out of the capital, but the rest of the country was left at the mercy of the rebels.

Often roads are intentionally left in poor condition to slow the advance of rebels towards the capital so the military would have more time to react.  Checkpoints line the roads to the capital and slow movement.  In the cities, trees are cut down that could potentially hide snipers or provide protection from rebel troops.  Trees along the road also can limit the maneuverability of tanks and other armored vehicles.  The leafy green foliage that keeps the dust and temperatures down in the concrete jungle also obscures people on the ground from hovering attack helicopters.

With advances in air conditioning in vehicles and buildings its less essential for the more fortunate to have trees.  The more fortunate also have generators to power the climatized spaces so electricity isn't a problem.  Unfortunately, in the places where the trees are cut down the general population usually don't have access to affordable reliable electricity.  But if the leader only sees his people from behind bulletproof glass does he care?

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