Chalica Day 5

Combining Conscience, the U.S. Senate, and Elephant Poaching 

UU Principle #5:  The right of conscience and the use of the democratic process within our congregations and in society at large. Two thoughts about this principle today, one that is relevant mainly to us in the US, and one relevant to the world.

Relevant to US readers:  My career was in the field of special education so I was amazed, disappointed, and disturbed by a vote in the US senate earlier this week. Republican senators rejected an opportunity for us to advocate throughout the world for the rights of citizens who are disabled, a treaty already ratified by 126 countries. As USA Today headlined “Frantic GOP fringe turns back on Bob Dole and the Persons with Disabilities convention.” Despite his war injuries, Bob Dole was a distinguished Republican senator for many years, and last week he visited the senate chambers in his wheelchair to urge treaty passage. All for naught. Given that many of the same senators who torpedoed the bill had earlier endorsed it, the vote was not only discouraging but despicable. These senators did not vote their conscience; their vote was political.

Relevant to the world: The African Wildlife Foundation, which has a 4-star (top) rating by Charity Navigator, has been fighting the dramatic reappearance of poaching, which had been more limited since 1989 when Dr. Richard Leakey, then director of the Kenya Wildlife Service, burned $3m of tusks to dramatize the war against poaching.  In 2009 Leakey noted the resurgence of this horror and, sadly, as Leakey forecast, it has now sprung back to life even stronger. A Facebook post by Peter Liech, a safari guide extraordinaire, has been covering and well states the serious problem of poaching:

My ink on Dr. Richard Leaky’s concern is still wet on your Facebook, and today, Kenya’s newspapers scream with the posted headline. 2 Rhinos butchered at Lewa Wildlife Conservancy is a worrying concern. We must all say NO to this.

How to say no? The elephants and rhinos are hunted only for their tusks and the killers do it strictly for profit. Below are several excerpts from an article in the New York Times, but similar information has been printed in newspapers around the world.

The vast majority of the illegal ivory — experts say as much as 70 percent — is flowing to China, and though the Chinese have coveted ivory for centuries, never before have so many of them been able to afford it. China’s economic boom has created a vast middle class, pushing the price of ivory to a stratospheric $1,000 per pound on the streets of Beijing.

High-ranking officers in the People’s Liberation Army have a fondness for ivory trinkets as gifts. Chinese online forums offer a thriving, and essentially unregulated, market for ivory chopsticks, bookmarks, rings, cups and combs, along with helpful tips on how to smuggle them (wrap the ivory in tinfoil, says one Web site, to throw off X-ray machines).

You may feel that this problem will wane after a while and is not worthy of our anger and action. Remember, however, that the Ivory Coast got its name from the hundreds of elephants that once roamed in that part of West Africa. Once roamed…but no longer.

Ask yourself: Do you want to live in a world without these magnificent creatures?

P.S. I have no affiliation with the African Wildlife Foundation, but their home page says that until Dec. 20th actress and well-known US animal activist Betty White will double every contribution made. Here’s where my conscience comes in. Off to get my credit card and contribute.

P.P.S. Photo shows me watching herd at Amboseli in Kenya last March.


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