“Of all African animals, the elephant is the most difficult for man to live with, yet its passing – if this must come – seems the most tragic of all. I can watch elephants (and elephants alone) for hours at a time, for sooner or later the elephant will do something very strange such as mow grass with its toenails or draw the tusks from the rotted carcass of another elephant and carry them off into the bush. There is mystery behind that masked gray visage, and ancient life force, delicate and mighty, awesome and enchanted, commanding the silence ordinarily reserved for mountain peaks, great fires, and the sea”
Peter Matthiessen, The Tree Where Man Was Born
A current affairs news show in the last week reported that we will soon live in a world without elephants.
Some 40,000 elephants will be slaughtered this year alone in Tanzania by poachers that will sell their very lucrative tusks on the black market. Sadly, Tanzania is not alone. The decimation of elephant populations is a worldwide problem.
The report concluded that the trade of ivory is escalating rapidly with the rise of the middle class in China. Ivory chopsticks are all the rage apparently. The problem isn’t about Chinese economic expansion. There will be many people in western countries with piano keys made from ivory, or with carvings or necklaces in their homes even though the trade in tusks has been tut-ted at for some time now.
As I watched this report I felt angry and confused. Surely people would prefer live elephants in the world to a stupid ivory trinket on their mantle?
The answer is of course almost everyone that doesn’t live near elephants would prefer live elephants, but unfortunately the pointy end of the ivory trade is hidden from the far distant end user who is simply looking for an attractive decoration for their house. Unfortunately our lust for pretty trinkets supports poaching, local violence, murder of authorities, intimidation, illegal trade and eventually the eradication of the majestic elephant.
With all of the nasty parts of this chain hidden from view it is easy to continue to desire and buy ivory, but if it were all laid bare it would be impossible for people to see ivory ornaments as a thing of beauty.
There are a lot of these veils across our eyes. Few of us have probably never heard of minamata disease (and fisheries companies work very to delay our awareness) so we continue to inadvertently ingest high doses of mercury from their sea foods. Meanwhile fishing cartels also continue to decimate aquatic populations as spoil that gets caught in their drift nets.
We continue to wear cotton garments because we are not personally exposed to the pesticides and toxins that are a staple of the production chain. We do not see or experience the effects these toxins have on the people, the plants, the birds and insect life and on the land where cotton is produced. We just see a nice skirt or a cheap sweat(shop)shirt
We love Greek yogurt, but perhaps many of us would not if we knew more about the toxic waste generated in the production process. For every 150 gram pottle of yogurt produced over 7500 grams of waste is generated. Trouble is nobody on the planet knows what to do with this nasty very toxic waste product. The current solution is to put it in a drum and tuck it in the ground for our kids to deal with. Like many other things the burden is shifted to the a future generation (our children and our grandchildren).
Our family has lifted the veil. We have a low harm buying policy and we make it our business to know as much as we can about who we are doing business with. There are some products that we have become horrified and angry about. We have stopped using them overnight. No matter the cost or complication to our lives . We simply won’t perpetuate the cycle. In other cases we have been pleasantly surprised and still others we have been disappointed and are in the process of changing (once we find the best alternative).
You can chose to ignore the evilness and violence that your consumption enables or you can decide to actively support the good guys (like these folks) who have made it their business to make the world a better place.
Your world. Your choice!