The Poaching Mentality

While poachers are considered destructive criminals of the first order, few think of society as harboring a similar, if less blatant mentality in the handling of natural resources.

Yet a poacher-like attitude is more pervasive in society than one would expect, with instant gratification resulting in behavior that "kills the goose that lays the golden egg".

It's easy to separate ourselves as law-biding citizens from the heinous acts of poachers. Public outage is widespread at the wanton desecration of such species as the elephant and rhino, propelling them towards extinction.

On the European continent, it is easy to denounce French poachers' illegal pursuit of an immediate payoff from the trapping and wholesale depletion of goldfinches. Criminal traffickers are selling these wild song birds, which the public unfortunately snaps up as household pets. The methodology for capturing these birds produces cruel collateral damage in which nine goldfinches perish for every one recovered. Not surprisingly, in the past 16 years, the once ubiquitous goldfinch population in France has been reduced by half and the carnage continues, despite stepped up law enforcement. At some point, the poachers could conceivably exhaust the population and then move on to the next bird "du jour".

Bad news, but is humanity in general engaged all too often in a variation of the poacher's same reckless behavior?

In that vein, I think back years ago to a drive in the Chinese countryside. An eerie silence prevailed over the land. No birds, no insects, or other signs of wildlife were in evidence. The only animals to be observed were some domesticated stock when one passed an occasional farm.

The mystery was dispelled when I entered a nearby town and visited its open market. For sale primarily as culinary fare or decoration was every life form, big or small that had once inhabited the surrounding countryside.

This is an extreme example, but the truth is that no people are immune at times from being moved by greed, desperation, or some other motivation to care only for the moment in exploiting a resource.

The July 2014 Science Magazine identified 322 birds, mammals, and reptiles eradicated due to human activity. Most were probably not depleted in the purposeful fashion of the poacher, but the outcome was the same.

In our own country, streams that were once drinkable no longer are as a result of human activity. Some marine species have been decimated from overfishing, and forests with rare plants have been stripped bare. Wolves were wiped out in the Rocky Mountain West at agricultural interests' request, upsetting the balance of nature.

Are poachers an advance team for a human race of two-legged lemmings inexorably caught in a fatal march to the sea? Or will mankind be able to pull back from the brink and commit itself to a sustainable use of the earth's remaining natural resources?

Stay tuned.