Wednesday, October 3, 2018

Haley Reading Group: Robert Draper’s “The Battle for Virunga”

[The Best American Science and Nature Writing (2017)]

Robert Draper’s article “The Battle for Virunga” focuses on the continuous struggle to maintain and rebuild Virunga National Park. Draper emphasizes the hardships neighboring communities and scientist face when trying to save this national park.

At one point, Draper calls the Virunga National Park “a war zone” (67). This point highlights the tug of war between the scientists’ desire to maintain the life of the National Park and local citizens’ need to survive.

What did you think about the significance and struggles associated with rebuilding the Virunga National Park?


37 comments:

Asher Denkyirah said...

I really enjoyed this reading because I watched the Oscar Nominated documentary "Virunga" on Netflix and to actually see all this happening visually, was heartbreaking but also inspiring to see the park rangers do all that they can to save their park and the gorillas. I was also really shocked by the Belgian Prince, De Merode's drive to provide as much assistance as the director. Especially, when De Merode raised salaries from $5 to $200 (pg 73). He listened to complaints and is working with other Congolese workers to make the park better.


- Asher Denkyirah

Aleeya Barrolle said...

The significance and struggles associated with rebuilding the Virunga National Park is that some animals have moved out and become abundant in a local hotel. "Even the parking lot was full of antelopes and wild pigs and all types of monkeys"(69).

Mackenzie Cohoon said...

I was struck by the importance that one road could make, and the symbolic meaning of it all. Here, we wouldn't give much thought into the rebuilding of a road, but to them the road meant new beginnings- it meant peace,hope,and rebirth. As Kambale stated, the road was "the beginning of life" (66). This is so significant because the struggles that Virunga has seen make it hard for there to be any life because it had become a place of destruction,but now there is new opportunity for Virunga to see life again.

Mackenzie Cohoon said...

I was struck by the importance that one road could make, and the symbolic meaning of it all. Here, we wouldn't give much thought into the rebuilding of a road, but to them the road meant new beginnings- it meant peace,hope,and rebirth. As Kambale stated, the road was "the beginning of life" (66). This is so significant because the struggles that Virunga has seen make it hard for there to be any life because it had become a place of destruction,but now there is new opportunity for Virunga to see life again.

Ivyanne B said...

I think that the significance and the struggles of Virunga really show that you can come out of a bad situation with work and persistent. "Now you see the rangers have clean uniforms and good weapons. You see the difference he's making" (pg. 73). Someone is trying to rebuild Virunga so it beautiful again. It shows that no matter what you've been through you can make it out of a bad situation. Virunga was ridden with war, rape, and the massacres of the gorillas but now someone is making a change to make Virunga beautiful again.
-Ivyanne B.

Argos 1756 said...

Daeja Daniels

The idea of rebuilding can be very powerful. That can be see through this. Virunga was something bad and ugly however, the rangers were able to turn it into something good. Not just something good for the animals but for the people as well. In the passage it says that the salaries were raised from $5 to $200 pg79. This is a clear sign that they are looking towards the future and the bettering of everyone.

Devin Ellis-Martin said...

This article ties together a theme mostly of the on going struggle between man and animal in survival, with the animals continuously losing this battle. On page 69, it states,"It was full of antelopes and wild pigs and all types of monkeys". This quote further proves how the presence of human and the natural instinct of animals are in constant battle, and habitats are constantly changing.

-Devin Ellis-Martin

Brandy Collier said...

The article was very interesting to me. It was very inspiring to read about the park being rebuilt after the years of neglect, "...All vacant and caked with two decades' worth of neglect"(69). Everything started to look better and the park employees were paid better when the park was directed by De Merode.

-Brandy Collier

Ronnie Akpan said...

Overall, the theme from Virunga left me feeling inspired. Virunga, at first was described as a war zone, made a 360 degree turn. The rangers put their backs into working to make the area a better place for not only the animals but the people who are around Virunga on a regular basis. It teaches those who read the excerpt that regardless of what beginning circumstances you are faced with, there is always a way to persevere and escape from the dilemma that you are in.

Jada Baker said...

This read was very interesting! I think this articles shows the reader that it is possible to turn a bad situation around. After Virunga went through a terrible time, people came together and worked to make the park function again. I think its amazing to hear about people working so hard toward something their passionate about.

Trevon Bosley said...

This article was first off interesting ,because I had no idea about the problems being faced in the Congo in reference to the ,"many armed groups that have ravaged and occupied Virunga for 2 decades."(66) or the ,"Ugandan government.. exploring for oil on its side of the lake."(68). It was also interesting to me that although the park was headed in the right direction many problems still arose. Overall this was a great article to read and I'm happy it concluded on a happier note.

Adejoke Adanri said...

I think the struggles with rebuilding the hotel related to the wildlife is significant because Virunga is home to so many. Page 67 stated that “Virunga hosts more than 700 bird species… as well as more than 200 mammals” I think its interesting that the wildlife were not more affected by this as stated on page 69 “meanwhile, slowly, the wildlife has begun to rebound. Since the massacre of seven mountain gorillas by … there population has been rising… hippos have mounted a surprising recovery while elephants are wading back across the Ishasha River…” I think its interesting that they tried to take care of their wildlife.

Tatyana Curtis said...

What stood out to me was on page 66 when Kambale stated, " Tell them to leave their armed groups. Because that is not life. This-and he would gesture toward the road- is the beginning of life". This stood out to me because even though the job they are doing is not the most sought after job nor does it provide much income for them it is building security to move on to bigger and better opportunities.

Desmond Crumer said...

Reading this really gave me insight on the problems and immense effort it took to make the park function again. I have personal connections to the " ethnic conflict... that led to the genocide of Tutsis and Hutus" and some of the experiences I have been told are gruesome.(67) To know that this was going on right next to Virunga made the ending even more positive.

-Desmond Crumer

TOMIKA COLLINS said...

I must admit this reading peaked my interest. I am not really the type of person that is into this type of reading, but it did grab my attention. It was mentioned that the Rwindi Hotel was once a nice place, but now "only baboons clamber through the brush". "...all vacant and caked with two decades' worth of neglect" "Even the parking lot was full of antelopes and wild pigs and all types of monkeys" (pg 69) It is amazing how the hotel took a turn for the worse and how some animals moved out and became abundant in the local hotel.

Aliyah Johnson said...

One struggle associated with rebuilding the Virunga National Park is when National Park rangers die in attempts to drive out militias who deplete the park's resources. National Geographic states that "This past march two rangers were executed in Virunga's central sector, driving up the death toll of park rangers to since 1996"(67).This is significant because it explains how strenuous and gruesome it was to maintain the Park.

Joshua Jones said...

I feel that after the author explained that "Virunga hosts more than 700 bird species....more than 200 mammals," on page 67, the struggle for the park came into perspective. Since many "Mai-Mai militias" and other individuals would take over the camps of the park, cut trees down, kill the animals, I think that this is the more significant issue. It truly shows that the ignorance towards ecology and the idiocy of people because killing off ecosystems is a long term effect that is not grasped very well among most people.

-Joshua J.

Mike Dade said...

Although I wasn't too interested in this article, I will say it was impressive to read about the work that everyone put in to turn around the state of the park. Fixing any situation that's been through two decades of neglect is a tremendous feat, and this story made it that much more sweet.

Shaina Falkner said...

What stood out to me was how successful they were with the improvement of the area by coming together. The "ragtag crew" was made of seven young men who managed to fix up the land, and they did it wonderfully. On page 69, Kambale says, "The hotel was always over capacity. Everyone came to see the wildlife and take pictures." This shows how much progress they made and how successful they were with their work.

Kendall Clark said...

I enjoy this article because it brings to question a greater struggle than the battle for Virunga, which is whether we should work to preserve our ecological environment or selfishly build upon mankind’s destructive lifestyle.

For example, Draper discusses the struggle to preserve Virunga while many governments seek to extract oil from the land (67-68). Oil is a huge industry for many countries, but it leaves a huge mark on the environment. At what point do we sacrifice certain luxuries in our lifestyle to preserve the world around us?

Natasha said...

A place like Virunga is sacred. According to the text, "there is no nationally protected area in the world quite like it" (67). It houses everything from savannahs and lowlands to the absolutely rare and stunning mountain gorillas. I believe it is essential that we do our best as a global society to preserve this special land as much as possible. However, the undeniable need for natural resources is likewise extremely important, especially to developing areas like that around Virunga.

With that being said, I think we need to take several steps to address this issue. 1. Commence a biweekly citizens meeting to those residing in the Virguna area. Everyone should voice their opinion and be heard equally in regard to handle the situation. 2. A democratic vote should be held. Virguna citizens should be the primary ones to decide as it has a greater impact on their lives than anyone else's. 3. Wealthier areas should help. Unfortunately, funds are likely one of the largest concerns regarding this issue. Therefore, we need others to help out and keep this area as protected and sustainable as possible.

-Natasha H.

Kaelyn Blunt said...

What was significant about his article is that even though its such a specific situation, it can be applied to a lot of situations. I admired the fact that the community came together to fix what was destroyed. If everyone applied this mindset to problems, it would not feel like we are living in a world where it is all of us individually against the world.

Tela Medearis said...

This was such an intriguing and eye opening read for me. I have become a lot more aware of environmental issues and the consequences of them as well. I never realized the the effects for saving the national parks could also pose a threat to citizens in surrounding areas. It is scary how there have been militias formed in order for them to stake claim and to illegally sell bush meat in Virunga. The reading goes even further to mention, “This past March two rangers were executed in Virunga’s central sector, driving up the death toll of park rangers to 152 since 1996” (Draper 67). On the other hand, I found it interesting and slightly concerning that Virunga has been set aside as a site for conservation when the people of the population are severely improvised and could really use the meat and vegetables and etc. that Virunga would provide. As great as rebuilding seems, they need to focus on the people and the population first.

-Kytela Hill (Medearis)

Zuriah Harkins said...

While reading through the chapter, it was disappointing to hear about all the of the many murders and terrible violence in the area around the park. However, I liked that the director, de Merode, realized what was going on and came up with a good solution. De Merode saw that most of the community's problems came from poverty, so he decided to find ways to build and unite the area, specifically by remodeling the park. Remodeling the park provided the citizens there with more jobs, better transportation, and more income towards the park in general. In the long run, it will allow the citizens to upgrade their city, making it a better community for everyone to live and get along.

-Zuriah Harkins

Dayejah Coates said...

What was significant to me was the bigger picture of the article. It was inspiring to read about how the community could put differences aside and come together for the greater good. That is something that we rarely see nowadays, but it is often the best solution in many situations.

Shardai J-H said...

Page 69 states, "Even the parking lot was full of antelopes and wild pigs and all types of monkeys." This is significant because it shows both the living conditions or the animals and people. The community needed a lot of help as well as the individuals.

Alishiana Ivy said...

This was a really inspiring reading. This one road was very important and significant.. And no matter what you go through and how many downfalls you have, it is about getting up and not giving up. The rangers really did work hard to make everything better for the humans and the animals. One thing that stuck out to me was on page 67 when talking about the “ two ranger were executed”. It really showed the commitment the rangers had to make the place better when they really didn't have to.

James Beverly said...

This article was pretty heart-warming. I remembering watching a documentary about Virunga and it had caught my attention. I liked how the community came together to begin reconstructing this national park. They may have encountered many obstacles and downfalls, but they cam together to get the job done - and that's completely admirable.

Youssef Hassan said...

After reading this article, i became very inspired how the rangers tried to rebuild Virunga National park. It shocked me to know how an issue like this could effect the people around it. Reading this article taught me that no matter how many us and downs you go through, there will always be light at the end of the tunnel.

Marcus Barnes said...

Virunga is definitely a place that I've never heard of before reading this article. To hear comments like, "there is no nationally protected area in the world quite like it" (p. 67), was kind of shocking because it's such a unique area that many people have never heard about before. There is so much going on there and so much to know about Virunga. From the militias and the large amounts of species, the community surrounding Virunga are fighting to maintain it and keep it protected. It is inspiring to see the work put in by the park rangers and dedication they gave to preserve the Virunga National Park.

- Marcus B.

Cheniya Alston said...

I think the significance of rebuilding the park is something astronomical. This is life-changing because not only was the salary of the rangers raised, “from $5 to $200” (Draper 79). I think this change really speaks to De Mode’s effort in trying to make the park beautiful again and this is so significant because while it’s necessary it also goes to show that in order to change something, all that is needed is to take the first step - a small change to ignite larger ones. While the past of the park is heart-rending, the future looks brighter.

Kamela Cross said...

I feel that all life is important, but when human lives become affected by trying to save a nation park my belief changes. I agree with the villagers that they have a right to their land . Just because the park holds some endangered animals doesn't mean it should continue to take land from the farmers there. Personally if an animal is endangered it should be moved somewhere it can able to reproduce safely.

Alexis A. said...

One of the snuggles associated with rebuilding Virunga would be the possibility of it being destroyed again. History tends to repeat itself, especially if individuals are ignorant of that history. Rebuilding this area could be a waste of time. The significance of rebuilding this area would possibly bed giving the people who use it a sense of pride and wanting to maintain the upkeep.

Carlie Bibbs said...

I thought this article was very interesting. It gave a clear picture of the struggle between human survival and ecological survival. I was glad to read that the park was improved and that the park director sought to find out ways to improve the relations within the community. The work that they put in was beneficial because it created a better community for everyone.

Jada James said...

There's a bigger picture to the article that I liked. There's an ongoing comparison or theme between what is happening with the animals vs with the people. "This past march two rangers were executed in Virunga's central sector, driving up the death toll of park rangers" (67). Although horrific acts occurred, ultimately the park is being restored.

Unknown said...

As the author writes, the road was "the beginning of life" (Draper, 66). I think this article was incredibly touching. Despite the hardships and history of hatred and conflict between the communities, it was heartwarming that they were able to focus on the needs of their people. It shows the importance of placing the needs of the people first, peace, and forgiveness.
-Kathryn Hatches

Anonymous said...

" ...embarked on an ambitious $166 million hydroelectric scheme utilizing the parks rivers , with the aim of electrifying one fourth of the area's households by 2020 and creating 60,000-100,000 jobs on the way." (69). I think that the struggles of rebuilding this park shows a great deal of dedication toward it. It took alot of money and time to do that. Also, they helped a community in the process of rebuilding. Lyric B.