Friday, July 31, 2015

Forget "poachers," think human nature....

“Save the ______” —you can fill in the blank with the animal of your choice.

Does this plea make sense?

I think it’s a desperate uphill slog to believe that human nature can be persuaded by such moral crusades.

“Save the Elephant” says a recent opinion piece by Lydia Millet in the Sunday New York Times.

The argument is simple: poachers are rapidly hunting elephants to extinction, and the countries that buy the most ivory—China and the United States—aren’t doing anything effective to stop the slaughter. In Africa, an elephant is killed about every 14 minutes.

I love some animals. I probably “like” animals a bit less than a lot of people do, and normally I don’t add my voice to the “Save the ______” chorus.

I think the main point is this: are we likely to be successful if we apply great energies to persuading or forcing wrong-doers, like elephant poachers, to stop doing the wrong thing?

Reluctantly, I suspect the answer is “No.”

Math and human nature are the controlling factors. I’m willing to argue—and believe—that most human beings don’t support and would spend modest sums to stop the illegal, destructive elephant poaching that is going to wipe elephants (and new ivory) off the face of the earth.

The intractable problem is that there will always be a small and renewable number of people who will do just about anything, legal or illegal, to make a buck today without a care for tomorrow or, specifically, for the future survivability of elephants.

I make a point of saying “renewable” because even if we could find and execute every active elephant poacher and all of his relatives tomorrow, by the end of the week some new bad guys would be stalking elephants and doing the bad thing.

The poachers most likely have the ability to wipe out the elephants.

I don’t think we could ever wipe out the poachers, as long as good folks in China and America and elsewhere want to keep on buying ivory and pretend that it's all legal.

Copyright © Richard Carl Subber 2015 All rights reserved.

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