UBL and the African elephant

[ cross-posted from Zenpundit — UBL, global warming, elephants, and Al-Shabaab ]

Natives with ivory tusks, Dar Es Salaam, Tanganyika” ca 1900, LOC

I’d like to quietly propose a few dots or data points…


Alex Shoumatoff has a fine article titled “Agony and Ivory”, in Vanity Fair:

The riverbank is littered with elephant dung. Andrea kicks apart one of the boluses, and it is full of big, hard-shelled seeds — Pandanus, Drypetes, and Gambeya. A new study has found that forest elephants are essential to central Africa’s forests for tree-seed dispersal. They can carry heavy seeds like these (which wouldn’t get very far on their own) in their gut for 50 miles before voiding them. Another study measures the rapid, prodigious growth of the forest trees and concludes that central Africa is the second-most-important equatorial sink for atmospheric carbon after the Amazon, so elephants are important for controlling global warming, on top of everything else.

Here is Shaykh Usama bin Laden, in his radio message “The Way to Save the Earth” from As-Sahab Media:

This is a message to the whole world about those who cause climate change and its dangers — intentionally or unintentionally — and what we must do. Talk of climate change isn’t extravagant speculation: it is a tangible fact which is not diminished by its being muddled by some greedy heads of major corporations. The effects of global warming have spread to all continents of the world. Drought, desertification and sands are advancing on one front, while on another front, torrential floods and huge storms the likes of which only used to be seen once every few decades now reoccur every few years.

From UBL’s perspective, this is clearly a moral issue:

First, the corruption of the climate stems from the corruption of hearts and deeds, and there is a close relationship between the two types of corruption.

And here’s Shoumatoff again, on the situation in Kenya:

A few weeks ago, two poachers were killed and a ranger was wounded in a firefight in Meru National Park. Al-Shabaab, the Islamist youth militia which is in league with al-Qaeda and controls most of Somalia, has been coming over the border and killing elephants in Arawale National Reserve. Ivory, like the blood diamonds of other African conflicts, is funding many rebel groups in Africa, and Kenya, K.W.S. director Julius Kipng’etich told me, “is in the unenviable position of sharing over 1,700 kilometers of border with three countries with civil wars that are awash with firearms: Somalia, Ethiopia, and Sudan.” Nothing less than a full-scale military operation is going to stop the poaching in the north.

Now, as EM Forster suggested, Only connect!

8 thoughts on “UBL and the African elephant”

  1. It’s the money. Make the poaching of ivory unprofitable.

    Make possession illegal and burn all you can find. Create a meme that abhors the possession of ivory as being a co conspirator with the poachers. Publish brutal video AlJazeera style.

    I like that solution but I’m in a small minority. Hi ho.

  2. It’s already illegal. Like all prohibitions of things that people really want, it fails in a miasma of violence. Under the current legal regime you can’t sell ivory legally, so elephants become merely very destructive pests, with tusks that make them worth more dead than alive to criminals but worthless to everyone else. Better solution is to make it legal, allow farmers to own elephants, allow trade in ivory. Then it becomes profitable to raise elephants and there will be more elephants. This approach works for American Buffalo; it should work for elephants too.

    This is a problem that would be easily solved if not for pervasive anti-market bias among govt officials.

  3. It’s the money. Make the poaching of ivory unprofitable.

    Make possession illegal and burn all you can find. Create a meme that abhors the possession of ivory as being a co conspirator with the poachers. Publish brutal video AlJazeera style.

    I like that solution but I’m in a small minority. Hi ho.

    Because that worked so well for cocaine.

  4. .
    If you drop these two “pebbles” — the slaughter of elephants (supported by or supporting al-Shabaab) for their ivory, and bin Laden’s protestation on moral grounds against the extermination of animal populations — into the pond of thought, and watch their ripples intersect, all sorts of questions emerge.

    Was bin Laden pulling a hypocritical line to connect with ecologically minded others who might be dissatisfied with the environmental “state of play” — or was he sincere in siding with the “greens” — and whether or not he was sincere, does Islam in fact have lines of consideration relating to the deaths of entire species, comparable to its condemnation of the death of one innocent human as equivalent to the extinction of a world)?

    Is al-Shabaab ignorant of — or simply heedless of — such moral considerations as they apply to the rapidly diminishing populations of African elephants — and if ignorant, could some of their co-religionist perhaps use moral suasion to deter them? Is there perhaps a plausible argument in Islamic theology that the butchery of elephants may be a necessary evil on the way to a greater good? What would hadith and qiyas have to say about that?

    Ah, but I am seeing this in terms of counterterrorism and religious studies, what of the perspective of ecologists — and of, gasp, the elephants themselves?

    What if, as William O. Douglas proposed, trees — and by extension, elephants — should have standing?


    I am juxtaposing the two — elephant slaughter and UBL’s ecological concern — because I want go further than simply raising the question of what to do about the elephants, and explore a whole congeries of related questions.

    What say you all?

  5. “Because that worked so well for cocaine.”

    Wow. A bit slow are we. You understand cocaine is addictive … right.

    It’s not a drug. It is made into items that adorn people and their things. If that was seen as a adjunct to crime by most people it would be unprofitable to try to sell it as there would be essentially no market.

  6. Superb reasoning. I agree that we should make ownership and trade of beef illegal, and encourage vegetarianism, in order to protect cattle from extinction.

  7. Creating property rights in animals is the best way to protect them. This view is is obviously true, but lacks the anti-human sentimentalism that lovers of nature insist on. So, owned by no one, protected not by the iron fence of self-interest but by weak and corrupt state power, these beasts are free goods running around inevitably to be seized and used at little or no cost to any poacher who wants them.

  8. Cocaine is addictive, true, and cocaine addiction is terrifying. But many, maybe even most of its users are not addicted to it, certainly no more than a CCP mandarin is “addicted” to buying ivory inlaid tables.

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