Against the wall of a large meeting room in Bangkok, Thailand, stands Martin Saning’o. The Masai leader from Tanzania listens intently to a panel discussing the human factor in conservation, and patiently awaits an invitation to comment. He stands out as the only black man in a room packed with committed environmentalists, most of whom are from the United States and Europe. When his turn comes, Saning’o speaks softly in slightly accented but perfect English.

“Our ways of farming pollinated...

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