Articles by Biodiversivist
My real name is Russ Finley. I also have my own blog called Biodiversivist, which contains articles in addition to those submitted to Grist. I live in Seattle, married with children. Suffice it to say that although I am trained and educated as an engineer, my passion is nature. I very much want my grandchildren to live on a planet where lions, tigers, and bears have not joined the long and growing list of creatures that used to be.
My youngest daughter wants to be a farmer. She is heading off to the local fair grounds tomorrow to help get the barn cleaned up in preparation for the big 4-H show where she will give a presentation on fur mites. Although her rabbit is extremely cute, it usually comes in last place, because cuteness doesn't count. We indulge her farm fantasies because she is learning a great deal about life and having a wonderful childhood while she's at it. Childhood only comes around once, at least until you have kids and can partially participate a second or third time.
A New York Times article documents the difficulty Douglas Tompkins is having protecting the thousands of square miles of pristine ecosystems he has purchased in Chile. From a historical perspective, what he has done is old hat. Wealthy individuals from Chinese emperors to British Lords have owned nature preserves. The problem is that things begin to unravel once the originator goes to heaven. One example is a private preserve in 1600s Europe that sheltered the last herd of Auroch. Cave paintings of these now-extinct wild cattle can be found in Southern France. Similarly, the last wild European Bison was killed by poachers on a private preserve in 1927 (they have since been reintroduced into the wild from zoos).
As this story in the Seattle Times suggests, the effectiveness of a wildlife refuge is directly linked to how well you can protect what is inside it: "... an international black market ... fuels the illegal slaughter of an estimated 500 eagles each year in southwest British Columbia alone, and an unknown number in Washington state."
Many nature preserves around the world have little or no protection, making them essentially worthless as preserves. There are not enough funds to hire an army of forest rangers to be everywhere all the time. The biggest problem with any system that relies on guys randomly driving around in pickup trucks is that 99.9% of the time nothing is happening, and when something does happen, it happens where the rangers aren't. Preventing poachers from killing hundreds of eagles is better than prosecuting them after the fact.
Maybe we should be using technology to protect the planet instead of destroy it? Like E.O. Wilson once said:
The race is now on between the technoscientific forces that are destroying the living environment and those that can be harnessed to save it.
According to an article on BBC News, huge flocks of red-beaked quelas have destroyed up to 70% of the crops in northern Nigeria. They have been driven there in a search for food from neighboring Niger, which has just experienced a drought and a plague of locusts. The poor people of Niger have been thrown into yet another famine and children are once again starving.