Saturday, 26 November 2011

Poaching: Demand and Supply

Over the past month I've tweeted frequently and blogged on water and sanitation, conservation of rhinoceros and tigers and solar electricity feed-in-tariffs, all of which are important issues in themselves but perhaps more important are the links between them.

China is now the world's largest manufacturer of solar panels as a direct result of our drive to reduce carbon emissions, for example by using subsidies such as the UK's feed-in-tariff system. This is part of the exponential growth in manufacturing in China and south east Asia to satisfy our demand for cheaply  manufactured products with off-shore carbon footprints. This growth has created many wealthy individuals, some of whom are using their newly found disposable income for the purchase of traditional medicines such as rhino horn and tiger parts. Of course such remedies do not work, but that knowledge hasn't stemmed demand.

Crossing the Indian Ocean to Africa and we find many people trapped by abject poverty. The rains have failed again; there is no harvest. This is the sharp end of climate change. There is no manufacturing and the wealth of mineral natural resources are being plundered by multinationals with only corrupt officials seeing any benefit. Desperate people will do desperate things. They know they may be shot and killed of caught poaching rhinos or elephants but the promise of rich rewards is too much. In a way, the poachers themselves are victims, similar  to drug mules. Catching them will only allow another desperate person to take their place. They need a viable alternative, opportunities to support themselves and their families. Improving security of water is a major step towards self sustaining communities.

To tackle poaching, therefore, we need to tackle both sides of the equation: we need to remove the desperation that leads people down the road to poaching and we need to remove the demand from those that can afford to buy the products.  This first can be achieved by supporting organisations such as WaterAID that are investing in infrastructure that will improve health, quality of life and sustainable communities that are less dependent on aid and through education regarding more sustainable ways to make a livelihood.  The second can be achieved through raising awareness that the products don't work medicinally and by applying pressure at government level to ensure all signatories of CITES are doing there utmost to prevent the trade. In addition, consumers can apply pressure by avoiding products, such as subsidised solar panels, manufactured in countries, such as China, which permit the trade in body parts of endangered species and participate in the campaign to ban the tiger trade.

1 comment:

  1. Nicely spoken. Thanks for writing. And, hey! I just noticed my blog in your blogroll. Thanks for doing that.
    It seems like the evils of this world all seem to stem from multinational corporations...
    Watching Mitt Romney win the New Hampshire primary yesterday scares the crap out of me. What a crazy world! What are we all doing?!
    As a consumer, I will do what I can to slow us all down...