In some arenas, including a recent UN assembly, charismatic mammals are lumped in as “sovereign national capital” with “charcoal and other forest products (including paper, timber and pulp).”World leaders have been gathering in a wide variety of forums lately to address some urgent environmental conservation issues, from water accessibility and ocean health to energy consumption and climate change. Focusing on these topics is paramount to make a better, truly sustainable world.

But what worries some non-governmental organization leaders like me in the long-term, however, is the lens through which we too often view these issues: An economic one.

A lot of what we study and consider in political decisions when it comes to the environment is given a monetary value. We stress that we should care because some problem is costing us “x” millions or “y” billions of dollars a year. The value of nature and its varied segments is so often defined by the amount of profit we can extract from it.

Have we been brainwashed into thinking only with our wallets? Isn’t stewardship for our environment a little more complex than simple financial mathematics?

The plight of animals across our planet is no exception.

In some arenas, including a recent UN assembly, charismatic mammals are lumped in as “sovereign national capital” with “charcoal and other forest products (including paper, timber and pulp).”

That is insulting.

We need to come together to agree that animals have intrinsic value; that is, they have an inherent value independent of their worth (or usefulness) to anyone, or anything, else.

Some are known to be ecological keystone species, which play a variety of roles in maintaining the health of larger biologically diverse systems. Some species have their own cultural and social values. Some animals are sentient beings, and more scientists consider some to have a level of sentience and even empathy that rivals human beings’.

What differentiates us from some of our peer wildlife conservation organizations is that some of them believe in a fundamental premise of conservative wildlife management that only populations matter, that individuals don’t.

Individual animals matter, and their suffering in light of climate change, pollution, hunting, habitat destruction, and other environmental blight is very real.

When they argue that deadly culls need to be employed to maintain a healthy population and habitat, we disagree. Such an attitude is anachronistic and does not take into consideration what scientists actually studying animal interaction and behavior in the wild have learned. In the case of an elephant, for example, remove one, especially an older individual, and there will be ripples of consequences through offspring, families, bond groups and clans.

Populations can only thrive because they are made up of diverse individuals with different strengths, genes, characters and interplays, plain and simple.

There’s been a lot of talk about wildlife crime and what its effects are worldwide with the economic loss as the central focus.

It is more than the robbing of natural resources: It starts with a violent act, causing great suffering among not only elephants, tigers and rhinos, who are slaughtered indiscriminately for their tusks, pelts and horns, but a variety of other species from gorillas and turtles to sharks to pangolins. The omnipresent demand fuels more acts of cruelty, and it’s spiraling out of control. We have made great strides in some areas, but have failed spectacularly in others. In order to fight the root causes we must modernize the conservative wildlife conservation concept and broaden it particularly by including wildlife welfare values and standards. And what do we, human animals, lose by being part of the destructive chain poaching, illegal trade, and consumption of illegal wildlife products? 

This week marks the gathering of leaders in the Republic of Korea’s Pyeongchang who are refreshingly thinking beyond economics when it comes to nature.

The Convention on Biological Diversity was established in 1992 to halt the loss of biodiversity worldwide and ensure the utilization of so-called natural resources is ecologically sustainable. To get there a set of semi-ambitious targets had been set to be reached by 2010, but dramatically failed.

The 194 Parties agreed on a new Strategic Plan 2010-2020 with the vision of “Living in Harmony with Nature” where “by 2050, biodiversity is valued, conserved, restored and wisely used, maintaining ecosystem services, sustaining a healthy planet and delivering benefits essential for all people.”

A set of 20 fairly ambitious targets were agreed to be reached by 2020 with a mid-term review to assess progress scheduled for this week’s 12th Conference of the Parties.

This serves to remind us to encourage world leaders to not only address economics, but take into account more directly other non-economic values we hold high as a global society—ethics, compassion, and the peaceful cohabitation with our fellow animals.

The many species of animals will be a lot better off because of it. And so will we.

–AD

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Article source: IFAW

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