Extinction is a powerfully destructive and foreboding concept. Once a species is extinct it is gone forever. More importantly, extinction disrupts and upsets the “natural order” of the collective existence we all experience on a daily basis. It affects us all. There is a maxim in the study of ecology and environmentalism that I have always tried to impress upon my students when discussing public policies regarding global warming and climate change and environmentalism generally: namely, it is that everything is connected to everything else.
Keeping this in mind we humans are dependent as much upon animals, plants, oceans, and other species as they upon us. And currently we are in danger of so altering that collective existence as to make it impossible for us as a species to continue to exist. Some may exalt in this but for those who are wedded to the notion that it is essential that we leave the earth is as good if not better condition than we found it (a standard definition of sustainable development), if for no other reason than out of compassion for future generations, we must adopt a new paradigm for propagation of the planet and the species who reside upon it. As of now, there is no Planet B.
It is for this reason that we need to understand and take action to save elephants all over the world. 2015 is the first year when the number of elephants being killed was more than those being born here. If unchecked African elephants will be extinct in our lifetime. But I would like to draw attention in this article to the plight of the Burmese Timber elephants of Myanmar (formerly Burma) in Asia. While the world is modernizing, including Myanmar, the working elephants of Myanmar, roughly 3,000, continue to live and work in ways more suited to a century ago.
Yes, these elephants are a crucial component to an economy that relies upon their work to remove timber from the forests. Democratization and modernization, however, are the new reality in Myanmar and it is posing vexing questions on the ability of the forest ecosystems to cope with these changes, with elephants being driven to extinction by habitat loss, poaching, and smuggling into the tourist trade. This could be the unintended consequence of road development in pristine forest habitats.
I recently had a conversation with Nomi Prins, the noted author, journalist, and public speaker best known for her groundbreaking work in exposing the financial services industry and banking irregularities that have had a profound effect upon the American economy. However, her current endeavors involve bringing attention to the catastrophe facing Burmese timber elephants and the need for a new sustainable economic paradigm to thwart their possible extinction.
“We have a collective responsibility to protect the world in which we live and all of its inhabitants,” she warned. “We have the ability to change the tide against elephant extinction if we can help save Burma’s captive and imperiled elephant population. This epic battle against the killing and cruelty of elephants can be won through the creation of sustainable, humane economies that co-exist in-balance with these magnificent creatures.”
The Elephant Project has developed a series of approaches that will preserve the species and provide economic opportunities to the communities affected through the following approach:
Building sanctuaries where there is a need and aid existing sanctuaries that require support.
Develop extensive retail operations which will market and sell products made in countries dedicated to elephant protection.
Create a revenue stream through properties integrated with sanctuaries; ecotourism businesses; property taxes, dues and assessments; and marketing and sale of goods manufactured in host countries through these retail operations.
Devotion of all profits to support a humane economy within the country.
Provide an opportunity for donors and investors to live near and witness the natural habitat of elephants and other wildlife.
It is anticipated that the impacts of this new economic paradigm will be transformational from the standpoint of preservation of the species and also from an economic development perspective. If nothing is done these elephants will either be put back to work logging and destroying the ecosystem or released into the wild where they are subject to poaching.
If interested in learning more about The Elephant Project and/or the event please contact here.