Ernest Hemingway wrote romantic stories about hunting wild game in Africa during the early 1900s. Thomas Ofcansky offers a less attractive story about the dwindling green hills of Africa. His new book,”Paradise Lost: A History of Game Preservation in East Africa,”chronicles the drastic environmental changes that have occurred in a few decades.
“The biggest thing is the impact people have on wildlife. Its a very negative impact,”said Ofcansky, an analyst for the U.S. Department of State and a West VirginiaUniversity alumnus.”In less than a century, it went from something none of us could believe today to just a few little endangered pockets.”
The author, who earned a doctorate in history in 1981, will return to campus this month to discuss his book. The presentation, the first for the newly formed Friends of WVU Libraries, is scheduled for 7 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 12, in the Downtown Campus Librarys large group viewing room.
The book, published in May by the WVU Press, began more than 20 years ago as Ofcanksys dissertation. He traveled to East Africa several times as a student and worked on temporary duty assignments in several U.S. embassies in East Africa, including Tanzania, Uganda, Kenya, Ethiopia, Eritrea and Sudan, after receiving his doctorate.
Ofcansky names mass tourism and population growth as the major contributors to the environmental woes East Africa is facing. A problem with tourism is that people who visit the national parks want to stay in five-star hotels rather than tents. The luxury first means clearing land for the hotels. Hotels, in turn, require frequent deliveries of water, food and other supplies, and people need to relocate to the parks to work in the hotels. More roads soon follow to carry the increased traffic into the formerly pristine areas.
Apart from this environmental degradation, massive deforestation has destroyed the habitats of bird and small animal populations, he said.
While Ofcansky believes the process is slow, its also irreversible.
“This is probably the final phase of what we think of as wild Africa,”Ofcansky said.”Its not a happy story. Americans dont like unhappy stories. They like to think there is a solution. If there is, I cant see it.”
Ofcansky is also the author of”Uganda: Tarnished Pearl of Africa,”“Historical Dictionary of Kenya,”“Historical Dictionary of Tanzania,”“Annotated Bibliography of British East Africa, 1865-1961”and”Ethiopia: A Country Study . “
For more information about Friends of WVU Libraries, go to the Web site:http://www.libraries.wvu.edu/friends/.