Conservation: Saving The Red Herring?
Excerpts from ‘Sustainable Living – True Conservation’, and the role of human population levels in what ‘conservation’ really means
Lamenting the conflicting viewpoints associated with the management of wild elephant populations in South Africa, the author of “Sustainable Living – True Conservation’ summarizes the conflict primarily as being between animal rightists arguing in favor of protecting elephant populations within protected areas and wildlife managers arguing that they cannot do this to the detriment of the system as a whole for a variety of reasons. He concludes that “Both arguments are right, but both are totally missing the point. Rapidly declining biodiversity on a regional, national or international scale is not as a result of growing elephant populations, or any other animal population for that matter, but as a direct result of the exponential increase in the human population putting unprecedented strain on all the natural systems of our planet which directly influences the survival of all other species, including our own, but yet it goes unchecked and ignored as if it does not exist.” The author concludes his article with the following summary, which I think poses some of the ethical, moral, and functional dilemmas facing population control strategists.
(The Following Is An Excerpt from ‘Sustainable Living – True Conservation’, By Errol Pietersen, viewable at the link here. )
Why do we not hear calls from conservationists and animal rightists alike to check the human population?
The reason is that there is no future in it. Nobody wants to take the responsible but unpopular stance of proclaiming the negative effects of our burgeoning population. There is no future for the animal rightists for adopting such a campaign, they won’t get any funding and very little support and can therefore not sustain it and as a result they simply ignore it. It is far easier to raise funds and support for ‘Save the Elephants, Rhino, Panda, Whale or Dolphin’, but it would be suicidal to proclaim that the extravagant use of natural resources by man is the direct cause of the threatened nature of the above species and thousands of others.
One won’t garner very much sympathy, empathy or dollars for a dung beetle, but you will for a cuddly panda or a long-lived and intelligent whale or elephant. And with the economics and public support comes the status to be seen, quite incorrectly, as the bastions of conservation, the saviour of our beleaguered planet. Utter rubbish, they are little more than jam stealers, misguiding public opinion and cashing in on the gullibility of an ill-informed public. While the true threat, ourselves, goes unchecked.
So whose responsibility is it, one asks, to do something about the rapidly increasing human population and the associated poverty and disease suffered by millions of underprivileged and starving third–world rural people? Surely one would think it is a governmental task? A task involving educating the public and ensuring that through a process of education people will realise and come to accept that smaller families are actually the way to go for a better and longer life.Not in South Africa it isn’t!
While expensive campaigns are being undertaken by government to combat HIV and Aids costing millions in an attempt to save lives, the very same government is encouraging young women, girls actually, to fall pregnant because then they will receive state aid to the tune of R200 per child per month until the age of 15 years. Not only that, but they get maternity leave from school and get free treatment at hospitals and clinics for the first few years of the child’s life. Thus by falling pregnant a girl can receive sufficient money to support herself, her child and extended family with essential food.
So where does that leave the HIV and Aids campaign? More and more young rural women are taking this option as it guarantees an income, even though a meagre one, in an economic climate where work for unskilled rural people is virtually unobtainable. But more seriously, what is happening to the population growth and structure and the effect this has on our nation as a whole and in a broader context the plight of our planet? This governmental posturing is nothing new – it has happened all the time. The former government gave rebates for the number of children one had, the more children you had (if you were white) the less tax you paid. It has been used by governments all over the world in the name of social upliftment, but in fact all they are trying to achieve is to stay in power longer by gaining the support of the uninformed masses and by so doing increasing the burden on the national and international economy.
Greater populations lead to a greater demand for fuel – in rural terms we are talking trees which are being cut down at an alarming rate (more than 50 percent of the population of the city of Maputo rely on charcoal for cooking), a greater demand for electricity (an item we most certainly do not have) and a greater demand for fossil fuels, which results in an increase in carbon emissions and an increase in global warming and so the cycle escalates. Instead of trying to address the problem our government is doing the exact opposite and are going out of their way to expedite the forces that will ultimately lead to the collapse of the planet to sustain itself as we know it.Just a few years ago one could drink out of any tap in the country without fear of contamination. Today one buys bottled water!
While carbon bartering can be practiced between developed and third world countries such a scheme will never work. The wealthy countries will just pay for the use of the poor countries’ carbon quota and continue to pump carbon into the atmosphere and console themselves that they are complying with the Kyoto Protocol, while the illiterate people of the world will be absolutely oblivious to the threat that their world is facing. Even if carbon loads could be curtailed and targets reached, which they won’t (it’s not good economics and not politically expedient for certain nations to do so), that would just retard the inevitable self destruction!
HIV and Aids are most probably currently seen as the world’s number one human enemy as far as diseases go, but prepare for something far worse than Aids.
It is the function of disease, amongst others, to limit the population of any specific species beyond carrying capacity. The larger the population becomes, the greater the chance of some holocaustic disease incident. Man has through his ability to reason and learn been able to counteract most diseases, thus negating their effect and increasing longevity and the quality of life. “A good thing” we say, and I must agree, for were it not for modern medicine and technology I would not be here today. The massive strides we have made in medical science do not need to be seen as bad, but we need to recognise that too many people is a bad thing and unless we do something about it ourselves, nature will do something more drastic than HIV/Aids.
We are alarmed by the high incidence of cholera, we have a resistant strain of tuberculosis, avian flu is seen as a potential threat by some, mad cow disease – the evidence is mounting.
If mankind is to save the planet he inhabits and by so doing save himself, then it has to be done with the aid of the churches and religious leaders. Many religions, the Roman Catholic Church being one of them, shun contraception and any form of birth control, maintaining it is forbidden by God. This is based on a scripture in the Old Testament which the Roman Catholic Church has chosen to interpret in this way.
However many modern Christian churches, including the Roman Catholic Church, quite happily ignore many other commands and exhortations in the Old and New Testaments finding all kinds of valid excuses why they should not apply today. Man has chosen to ignore the Word of God and implement a policy far more expedient to himself and current philosophies, yet we still have the Roman Catholic Church urging their followers not to practice birth control; this in a world where millions are dying from disease and hunger and where the burgeoning human population threatens to annihilate the planet as we know it.
I believe God gave us minds and the ability to think and reason and He expects us to use these gifts. Looking at the current conservation scenario with the prediction of thousands of species currently facing extinction, decreasing oil reserves and increasing costs for all forms of energy, I think we can quite safely say this planet is headed for a major shake-up, the only question is when. I for one do not think this event is too far ahead. It is possibly too late to take any drastic steps to reduce populations as any such step, were it to miraculously happen, would take a few decades to kick in and I don’t think we have that much time. However I still think we should apply those “superior minds” of ours that are supposed to set us apart from the animals and do something to save ourselves. Instead we are depicting typical herd behaviour when faced with threat, we ignore it and hope it will either go away or it will happen to someone else and not to anyone near or dear to us. The time to act is now, tomorrow is too late!