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a managed forest

Page history last edited by Andrew Alder 2 years, 11 months ago

Likely to be an unpopular essay


I objurgate the centipede, A bug we do not really need - Ogden Nash



There's a popular bumper sticker that I am often tempted to vandalise. Not sufficiently tempted to actually do it, but tempted.


It reads "A managed forest is forever".


It should of course read "A managed forest is managed forever".


Once we decide to keep it as it is, it's no longer wild or natural. To think it is is a dangerous exercise in politics at best, and often in outright self-deception.



Extinction is a natural part of the biosphere. The efforts of the WWF, the IUCN and similar organisations to prevent all extinctions, and even to prevent all extinctions in the wild, are doomed to failure if they are intended to preserve nature, because they are actually working to prevent a process that is an important part of nature. 


And even more important, extinction is not always a bad thing. I would like the malaria parasite to be eliminated. It is a risk and there may be unexpected consequences, but it is worth the risk.


Biodiversity is a good thing but not a good God. We need to be selective. It is risky. We will make mistakes. But not as many mistakes as nature will make if left to herself, or at least not from a human perspective.


That's why we manage forests! Isn't it?


I would like the Eastern_Brown_Snake (currently a protected species but described by the IUCN as "least concern") to be extinct in the wild. It kills more people than all other Australian venomous snakes put together. It is already very successfully bred in captivity. Its ecological niche in the wild will probably be filled by other species. Again there is a risk. Life is risky. The biggest risk is to take no risks... that normally guarantees failure.



And that raises another issue. Zoos have their place, particularly in preserving species and subspecies that might otherwise face extinction, and in financing and conducting all sorts of research. So do botanical gardens and seed banks. They are all good parts of our management of the planet.


Animals in the wild generally have a limited range, a brutish lifestyle and an agonising death. They are far healthier and happier in a well-run zoo. That may not be what you've been told. 


A zoo is not a substitute for a wilderness. We should have both.


Because other animals do not have human rights, and when we try to give them these rights, we set back the cause of real human rights. Bambi and Finding_Nemo and Chicken_Run are all just as much fiction as the talking ass in Shrek. (And you knew that.)


So calls for the closure of zoos on moral grounds are misguided.  



And in case that hasn't made me unpopular enough...


Calls for the elimination of fur, and the abuse and vilification of those who sell it and even those who wear it, are similarly misguided. It's not that simple at all.


The American Mink is a species of least concern, and part of that is its economic importance. The European Mink is critically endangered, and part of that is its economic insignificance. Food for thought?


By all means, criticise a famous woman who wears a coat made from the skins of six tigers. Yes, it happened, not all that long ago... as one commentator observed at the time, "one woman is wearing a substantial part of the remaining tiger population". Even if those skins were legally and responsibly sourced it's still an appalling example to set, she's a celebrity and others will try to follow her lead.


But give the woman (or man) who wears mink a break. You may be jealous of their wealth, but just maybe that little bit of it was very well spent, even environmentally. That mink coat will outlast several leather coats and many, many synthetic ones.


Again, we need to be selective!


A managed planet

So give credit where credit is due. Slogans are fun, and the Go-Gos (great band) marching naked behind a banner made a great photo.


But if such slogans and stunts ever lead to good decisions, that is by pure accident. More food for thought?  



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