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RE: A Different Perspective

  • Subject: RE: A Different Perspective
  • From: Phil Bunch <pbunch@cts.com>
  • Date: Sat, 28 Jul 2001 09:49:52 -0500 (CDT)

I personally support the CITES treaty and it's enforcement. I also work as 
a consulting biologist to a utility company and manage the day-to-day 
implementation of an endangered species/habitat conservation agreement with 
both the state and federal government (U.S.). I deal with this problem 
everyday and am constantly in between powerful interests. At times NO one 
likes what I say or do as part of my responsibilities. This is may be why 
my post appears to argue both sides of the issue. The realities of the 
problem are indeed painted in shades of gray. Effective solutions are 
rarely within the province of ideologues on either side.

I have a rather pessimistic view of our real capacity to stem the tide of 
extirpation before we realize what we have lost. This is based on 
personal/professional involvement with environmental issues in Colombia and 
Mexico as much as my current job. Development is going to occur and with 
it, much additional habitat will be lost. There is no clean solution to the 
active interface between human needs/desires and habitat destruction. We 
are a short-sighted species with a great capacity to invent and an 
inability to see the long-term consequences of the implementation of our 
creative ideas.

As a plant collector I also have struggled with the problem of our 
responsibility for the conservation and preservation of endangered species 
with commercial value. I am inalterably opposed to practices that may 
adversely effect the survival of species with very limited distributions in 
habitat. Such practices almost always involve the removal of material other 
than seeds, spores or cuttings. In some very rare species only the removal 
of tissue for in vitro propagation is acceptable. In some cases, seeds may 
be collected without affecting the long-term viability of populations. I 
think that collectors may be able to provide an "ark" for some species 
subject to habitat destruction but this is not a simple proposition. I 
would support the "rescue" of plants from areas where development activity 
will adversely affect their chance of survival if there were an effective 
way to distinguish between plants collected in such situations and those 
collected for purely commercial purposes. This is why the CITES treaty is 
important. How can we distinguish between responsibly collected material 
and material that should be left in place once it is on the market? 
Collectors in "rich" countries are an important driving force for the 
market. We are part of the demand side. I think everyone needs to consider 
the question: If I buy this plant, will it create more demand for more 
habitat collected plants?

In regard to the people responsible for the enforcement of laws 
implementing the CITES treaty, keep in mind that they are just people. Some 
are ideologues, some are very rational in their approach, some are just 
putting in eight hours a day. Recall that their job is to enforce the law 
no matter what their intrinsic characteristics may be. They are often 

IMHO trying to deal with such complex problems is hampered by concepts of 
"right and wrong." There are only our actions and their subsequent effects. 
A person with a gun may kill a few others, a person with an ideology may 
kill millions. To be effective we must lay aside our personal points of 
view and TRY to see the "realities."

Phil Bunch

On Friday, July 27, 2001 21:48, Betsy Feuerstein 
[SMTP:ecuador@midsouth.rr.com] wrote:
> You know it is funny how what you say could mean either don't obtain that 
> is being destroyed in situ or get it at all cost because it is going to 
be gone
> in so few years. Think about that one and come to your own conclusions. 
> just made an argument that could go both ways. Is there a right or wrong? 
As a
> few have alluded to, this really is a power and control issue and really 
has so
> very little relevance to the saving or destroying of  habitats and 
> Perhaps when we see a bigger picture, like survival of ourselves, we will 
> back and realize by saving what is, we by all rights, save ourselves, but 
> just may be tooooo late. At that point fear of our own survival or that 
of our
> offspring will take on a precedence that has true relevance to so many 
that the
> power and control will be in the hands of those many  who are in this day 
> age ignored and not cared about. It may come down to saving ourselves 
before we
> wake and see the bigger issue and let go of the old greed and control and
> callous nature of humanity  and come to a respect of all that lives and 
that is
> on this planet. Does that sound philosophical? WEll, at some point, 
> is likely to play out in reality and then where will we be? Each of us, 
in our
> own ways, wants the same thing. Tolerance and caring and sharing and 
> and being there to assist each aspect in the chain, will potentially 
enable the
> chain to function and survival to result. Weak links, of which there are 
> now, make the outlook bleak. I, for one, hope that we wake up and start 
> together to not save individual plants, but those all along the chain 
> human, to animal, to plants so that it all will be there, to share. Is 
that not
> what we all hope for?
> Phil Bunch wrote:
> > I think we need to keep the purpose of CITES in mind. It is only meant 
> > regulate the international trade in some species, it is not a blanket
> > conservation measure.  It is true that habitat destruction is the major
> > known cause of endangerment and probably extirpation. This however is 
> > amenable control through treaties. CITES represents an effort to 
> > one small part of a much greater problem. As collectors I think we have 
> > responsibility to do our part, small though it may be.
> >
> > Phil Bunch
> >
> > On Friday, July 27, 2001 11:57, Regferns@aol.com 
> > wrote:
> > > We are indeed immersed in a difficult subject. I would like to be on 
> > side
> > > that says "the law is the law."  But, being who I am I also realize 
> > at
> > > one time "laws" were created to prevent me from drinking out of the 
> > > water-fountains as those from a different race.  Laws also prevented 
> > from
> > > voting, laws also prevented my grandparents from obtaining an 
> > I
> > > like to think of myself as one who recognizes the need for rules and
> > order,
> > > but I am also a person who is not blind, my eyes are wide open.That 
> > > this is what I have seen.
> > >
> > > The CITES agreement is haphazard at best.  Those of you who have 
> > > stepped foot in a jungle nor visited a foreign country to witness for
> > > yourselves what is happening to not only the rainforest, but forests 
> > even
> > > woodlands, are living in a dreamworld, if you think that the creators 
> > > CITES know best.
> > >
> > > As Betsy mentioned, just listening to the chainsaws in the distance 
> > > chilling.  Seeing huge numbers of barges floating down the Rajang 
> > in
> > > Sarawak (Borneo) is mesmerizing, flying over Peninsular Malaysia and
> > looking
> > > at the thousands, upon thousands of newly planted acres of oil palm
> > groves is
> > > enough to bring a tear to your eye.  And if you really want to drop 
> > your
> > > knees and weep, go through an area where the legal loggers (from 
> > > countries who have paid HANDSOMELY) are working.  Notice how they 
> > down a
> > > century old dipterocarp.  Notice how many epiphytes: orchids (CITES
> > appendix
> > > 1), aroids, ferns are stripped from the trees and are allowed to bake 
> > the
> > > sun and ultimately die.  Then it dawns on you that once these 
> > > trees are gone, the understory quickly vanishes because of lack of
> > > protection.  Once the understory vanishes, the fauna that depended on 
> > > understory now vanishes.
> > >
> > > My point:  the CITES agreement does not really work.  Many of these
> > countries
> > > require hard cash to operate--and logging is a wonderful source. 
> > are
> > > those of you who talk about working to change the laws--how noble.  I
> > have
> > > always hated this saying, but the older I get the more I truly 
> > the
> > > meaning:  "Money Talks..." you know the rest.
> > >
> > > This CITES situation really needs to be addressed, but because there 
> > so
> > > many different agendas at play, ultimately the flora and fauna will 
> > > And there will be no plants or animals to save--even with the best
> > > intentions.  The jungles are disappearing at an alarming rate.  And 
it is
> > not
> > > due to collectors. 85% of the state of Sarawak on the island of 
Borneo is
> > now
> > > destroyed because of logging.  And even though Sarawak has signed a
> > > biodiversity agreement forbidding plants and animals to leave the 
> > the
> > > loggers still have free reign.  Just a view from one of the places I
> > visit.
> > >
> > > Reggie Whitehead
> > > South Miami, Florida
> > >  << File: ATT00000.html >>

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