Culture

Why Measles Making the News Is a Sign of Progress

A set of measles outbreaks in Washington state, New York City, and elsewhere, is making national headlines and frightening parents around the United States. Counter-intuitively, measles making the news is a sign of progress. Not long ago, measles was so common that it was simply not newsworthy. Suffering from the extremely infectious disease, which causes spotty rashes and a hacking cough, was widespread and often deadly.

It was once the case that even royalty fell victim to diseases now easily preventable with routine shots given during childhood. Measles killed the un-vaccinated King Kamehameha II of Hawaii, and his queen, Kamamalu, in the 1800s. A century prior to that, King Louis XIV of France lost his brother, son, grandson, and great-grandson to smallpox. Smallpox once claimed approximately 400,000 lives annually in Europe in the late 18th century, and in the 20th century, it caused hundreds of millions of deaths around the world. Thanks to vaccines, smallpox was eradicated in 1980.

As recently as the late 1950s and early 1960s, nearly twice as many children died from measles as from the polio disease. Thanks, once again, to vaccines, polio was eliminated from the United States in 1979.

Recent coverage by the Washington Post of the current measles outbreaks contains an amazing anecdote of a measles victim’s visit to a doctor: “the doctor, who had never seen measles, misdiagnosed the man’s fever and cough as bronchitis.” That measles is now so rare that even a trained medical doctor cannot recognize it, when just a generation ago it was a common childhood ailment, is truly a triumph of medical progress.

As recently as 1990, measles caused over 22 deaths per 100,000 people globally. Thanks to the measles vaccine and rising global vaccination rates, that figure fell to just over 1 per 100,000 people by 2016, the most recent year for which there is data. That represents a decline in measles deaths of over 95 percent.

The current uptick in measles cases is troubling. But the fact that measles cases are making the news at all is a testament to medical progress.


About the Author

Chelsea Follett is a policy analyst at the Cato Institute and managing editor of Human Progress.

Flawed Assumptions of China's Disastrous Childbearing Laws

The Chinese government is finally considering ending all of its cruel and pointless limits on childbearing, after softening its one-child policy to a two-child policy in 2016. To increase the birth rate, a recent South China Morning Post editorial even recommended that China adopt an “at least one child” policy. That is because, in a dramatic reversal, the government is now worried that its citizenry is producing too few, rather than too many, children. Not long ago, the government feared just the opposite.

China’s birth limits were intended to shrink the population, based on the idea that “too many” people spelled disaster. Overpopulation fears became popular among Chinese officials in the 1970s, when the central arguments behind the Club of Rome’s report The Limits to Growth were translated into Chinese and promoted by a mathematician named Song Jian.

The book warned that population growth could deplete resources and lead to a “collapse” of global society. It relied largely on computer simulations based on a dubious set of assumptions.

Anti-population paranoia was not new. Thomas Malthus published an essay in 1798 expressing much the same fears, although without the elaborate calculations. But helped by alarmists like Stanford University biologist Paul Ehrlich and the members of the Club of Rome, overpopulation hysteria underwent a renaissance in the 1970s. The Limits to Growth also promoted the idea that planners could use “systems analysis” to compute a country’s sustainable population size. In 1978, Song Jian calculated that China’s ideal population was between 650 million and 700 million people — in other words, 280 million to 330 million less than its actual population at the time.

Hence in 1979, China imposed the infamous policy that restricted each family to one child. The consequences were tragic, with millions of sterilisations and abortions, many of them forced. Families who committed the grave crime of having more than one child could be forced to pay fines many times more than their annual income. The family size limits, combined with a cultural preference for sons over daughters, have also led to female infanticide, sex-selective abortions and a highly skewed gender ratio. In 2007, the ratio among newborns reached 1.17 boys for every girl. By 2015, the ratio improved slightly to 1.15 boys for every girl, still far outside the global rate of 1.05 boys per girl.

While the human rights abuses alone are reason enough to oppose birth limits, the premise that “overpopulation” is a problem at all is incorrect. More people in the world means more people to solve problems, and less resource scarcity. As economist Julian Simon has written: “For all practical purposes there are no resources until we find them, identify their possible uses, and develop ways to obtain and process them. We perform these tasks with increasing skill as technology develops. Hence, scarcity diminishes.”

Human beings, with their inventive potential, are themselves, in Simon’s phrase, “The Ultimate Resource”. Each child born today eventually grows up to make resources less scarce, on average, by contributing to innovation and the global economy.

But perhaps the saddest part is that the birth restrictions did not even achieve their stated goal — ill-informed though it was. While China’s birthrate did fall during the period in which these childbearing policies were in place, the birthrate of neighbouring countries fell too, sometimes even faster — all without authoritarian laws limiting procreation. In fact, most of the fall in China’s birth rate occurred before the one-child policy was even implemented.

It is true that China’s birth rate was higher back in the mid-1960s, when the average Chinese woman had more than six children on average. But by 1979, the year the one-child policy began, that figure had already dropped to just under three children. The decline since then has been less dramatic, and perfectly in line with trends in neighbouring countries.

South Korea, where the fertility rate was very similar (and in fact slightly higher than China’s) in 1979, has seen an even steeper decline since then and today has fewer births per woman than China. So too does Hong Kong, an autonomous region of China where families are free to have as many children as they choose.

The data clearly indicates that the birthrate would have fallen without coercive restrictions on family size. Demographers widely accept that after a country’s average income passes about $5,000,  families tend to have fewer children.

Regardless of what the Chinese Communist Party decides, their limitations (or lack thereof) are unlikely to meaningfully affect the birth rate. The bottom line is that regardless of their effect, these restrictions unethically limit women’s and families’ choices and should be removed as soon as possible. And if implementing an “at least one child” policy, as the South China Morning Post’s editorial board desires, would involve punishing the childless, then that too is an inhumane and appalling idea.


About the Author

Chelsea Follett is a policy analyst at the Cato Institute and managing editor of Human Progress.

Dismantling Free Markets Won't Solve Biodiversity Threat

Driven perhaps by envy at the attention that climate change is getting, and ambition to set up a great new intergovernmental body that can fly scientists to mega-conferences, biologists have gone into overdrive on the subject of biodiversity this week.

They are right that there is a lot wrong with the world’s wildlife, that we can do much more to conserve, enhance and recover it, but much of the coverage in the media, and many of the pronouncements of Sir Bob Watson, chair of the Intergovernmental Panel on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES), are frankly weird.

The threat to biodiversity is not new, not necessarily accelerating, mostly not caused by economic growth or prosperity, nor by climate change, and won’t be reversed by retreating into organic self-sufficiency. Here’s a few gentle correctives.

Much of the human destruction of biodiversity happened a long time ago

Species extinction rates of mammals and birds peaked in the 19th century (mostly because of ships taking rats to islands). The last extinction of a breeding bird species in Europe was the Great Auk, in 1844. Thousands of years ago, stone-age hunter-gatherers caused megafaunal mass extinctions on North and South America, Australia, New Zealand and Madagascar with no help from modern technology or capitalism. That’s not to say extinctions don’t still happen but by far the biggest cause is still invasive alien species, especially on islands: it’s chytrid fungi that have killed off many frogs and toads, avian malaria that has killed off many of Hawaii’s honeycreepers, and so on.

This is a specific problem that can be tackled and reversed, but it will take technology and science and money, not retreating into self-sufficiency and eating beans. The eradication of rats on South Georgia island was a fine example of doing this right, with helicopters, GPS and a lot of science.

We’ve been here before. In 1981, the ecologist Paul Ehrlich predicted that 50% of all species would be extinct by 2005. In fact, about 1.4% of bird and mammal species, which are both easier to document than smaller creatures and more vulnerable to extinction, have gone extinct so far in several centuries.

The idea that “western values”, or “capitalism”, are the problem is wrong

On the whole what really diminishes biodiversity is a large but poor population trying to live off the land. As countries get richer and join the market economy they generally reverse deforestation, slow species loss and reverse some species declines. Countries like Bangladesh are now rich enough to be reforesting, not deforesting, and this is happening all over the world. Most of this is natural forest, not plantations. As for wildlife, think of all the species that have returned to abundance in Britain: otters, ospreys, sea eagles, kites, cranes, beavers, deer and more. Why are wolves increasing all around the world, lions decreasing and tigers now holding steady? Basically, because wolves are in rich countries, lions in poor countries and tigers in middle income countries. Prosperity is the solution not the problem.

Nothing would kill off nature faster than trying to live off it. When an African villager gets rich enough to buy food in a shop rather than seek bushmeat in the forest, that’s a win for wildlife. Ditto if he or she can afford gas for cooking rather than cutting wood. The more we can urbanise and the more we can increase our use of intensive farming and fossil fuels, the less we will need to clear forests for either food or fuel.

Intensive farming spares land for nature

It’s been calculated that if today’s population were to be fed using the mainly organic yields of 1960, we would have to farm 82% of the world’s land, whereas actually we farm about 38%. Thanks to fertilisers, tractors, genetics and pesticides, we now need 68% less land to produce a given quantity if food than we did in 1960. That’s a good thing. Most sensible conservationists now realise that “land sparing” is the right approach – intensive farming plus land set aside, rather than inefficient farming with some nature in the fields. Professor Andrew Balmford of Cambridge University led a team that did thorough research showing that this is the better approach not just for land use but for other environmental issues too: they found that organic dairy farms cause at least 30% more soil loss, and take up twice as much land, as conventional dairy farming for the same amount of milk produced, for example.

Doing more with less

A favourite nostrum of many environmentalists is that you cannot have infinite growth with finite resources. But this is plain wrong, because economic growth comes from doing more with less. So if I invent a new car engine that gets twice as many miles per gallon, I’ve caused economic growth but we’ll use less fuel. Likewise if I increase the yield of a crop, I need less land and probably less fuel too. This “growth as shrinkage” happens all the time: think how much smaller mobile phones are than they once were.

The fact that species are recovering is ignored by the media

The BBC used a humpback whale song to illustrate species under threat of extinction. Humpback whales were down to a few thousand in the 1960s and listed as “endangered”. In 1996 as the population grew, they were downgraded to “vulnerable”. In 2008 as they became numerous, they were downgraded again to “least concern”. Today there are 80,000 of them, they are back to pre-exploitation densities in many parts of the world, and groups of up to 200 are sometimes seen feeding together, a success unimaginable when I was young. The same is true of many previously exploited species such as fur seals, elephant seals, king penguins and more.

For some reason, environmental activists hate talking about the success stories of conservationists in saving species, recovering their populations and reintroducing them to the wild. They prefer to dwell on the threats. This brings more publicity and donations, but it also spreads a counsel of despair, leaving many ordinary people feeling helpless, rather than engaged. It’s time for an honest debate about what we can do to save wildlife, rather than a Private Fraser cry of “we’re all doomed."


About the Author

Lord Viscount Matt Ridley is a scientist, journalist, and businessman. His books have sold over a million copies, been translated into 31 languages and won several awards. He is a board member of Human Progress.

Beware the Anti-Humanism of the Extremists

We are entering dangerous territory. The radicalisation of the environmentalist movement, as seen on the streets of London over the past week, is accelerating and is increasingly acquiring a darker aspect.

The anti-humanist strand of environmentalism is best exemplified by the renewed push to reduce the world’s population. Unlike in the past, when some governments, such as that of India, forced men and women into sterilisation programs and others, like the Chinese government, mandated “one-child” policies, these latest initiatives are voluntary. This makes them morally preferable, even if they remain intellectually incoherent. A populous world is a rich world and a rich world is better for the environment.

It should go without saying, though it bears repeating in some parts of the world, that motherhood ought to be entered into by consenting women. Under such circumstances, the optimal global birthrate and national birthrate would be determined by women’s personal decisions. Normally, these rates are impacted by a variety of factors including women’s religious beliefs where birth-control is concerned, economic forces and opportunity costs that women incur by joining the labour market instead of staying at home to care for children. But most people, including a lot of prospective mothers, are also influenced by broader social trends – the zeitgeist, if you will.

In pre-modern Europe, for example, religion, culture and society were often synonymous, and women were typically pressured into motherhood by commonly held beliefs, including those that said that it is “a woman’s duty to bear children and in doing so, make reparations for the sins of Eve. If she could not do so, she was a failure as a woman and lacked God’s grace”.

Today, a new quasi-religion is making inroads into popular culture and making claims about the optimal extent of female fecundity. The environmentalist movement, which started as a noble effort to make people and nature more symbiotic, increasingly sees human beings as a plague upon the planet. As such, environmentalism is running the risk of transmogrifying into a fully-fledged credo of anti-humanism.

Examples of this dangerous trend abound. BirthStrikers, for example, began in the United Kingdom as a voluntary organisation for people who have decided to eschew parenthood in response to the coming “climate breakdown and civilisation collapse”. According to the group’s Tumblr page, “We, the undersigned, declare our decision not to bear children due to the severity of the ecological crisis and the current inaction of governing forces in the face of this existential threat.”

FastCompany, a monthly American business magazine that focuses on technology, business, and design, recently ran a video that made the following claims: 

"In Fall 2018, the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change released a report pointing out that we have only 12 years before the planet begins to feel the effects of catastrophic climate change if we don’t take action now … The four actions that would have the most impact on climate change are living car free, avoiding air travel, eating a plant-based diet and having fewer kids … When you look at the action of having one fewer child, when you’re thinking about how to account for that, you should probably account for the fact that that child is likely to go on to have their own children. Having another child is multiplicative … More people on the planet is going to entail using more resources and that just makes that number [carbon footprint] go so much higher than all the other things we looked at."

 According to FastCompany, 38 per cent of Americans between the ages of 18 and 29 “agree that couples should consider the negative impact of climate change when thinking about having kids”.

So, let’s start with some inconvenient truths. The world population, which is currently 7.7 billion, will likely peak at 9.8 billion people by around 2080 and fall to 9.5 billion by 2100. That’s according to Wolfgang Lutz and his colleagues at the International Institute of Applied Systems Analysis in Austria. Assuming rapid economic, technological and educational advancements, all of which tend to lower birth rates, Lutz estimates that humanity could peak at 8.9 billion in 2060 and decline to 7.8 billion by 2100. Put differently, in 80 years the world’s population could end up being the same as it is today.

Lutz should be listened to because the United Nations, which projects the world population expanding to 11.2 billion by the end of the 21st century, has repeatedly overshot their population estimates by underestimating the effects of economic development on fertility. To that end, the most assured way of limiting population growth is not to reduce birth rates in developed countries, where they are trending below the replacement level of 2.1 babies per woman, but by promoting rapid economic development in under-developed countries, where birth rates continue to be above the global average of 2.4 babies per woman.

That said, we should beware a plateauing or, even, declining global population. A growing population produces more ideas. More ideas lead to more innovations, and more innovations improve productivity. Finally, higher productivity translates to better standards of living. As Gale L. Pooley from Brigham Young University, Hawaii and I found in a recent paper, “over the past 37 years, every additional human being born on our planet appears to have made resources proportionately more plentiful for the rest of us”. Put differently, the relationship between population growth and abundance seems to be a positive one.

Richer people, in turn, can expend more time, energy and resources on conservation. A total of 15 per cent of the earth’s land surface, or 20 million square kilometres, is now covered by protected areas. That’s an area more than three times the size of the entire United States. Marine protected areas now account for almost 7 per cent of the global ocean or some 25 million square kilometres. That’s an area more than twice the size of South America. Furthermore, countless scientists are working around the clock to identify endangered species in need of protection and even bringing extinct species back to life.

Back in February, the U.S. congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) asked, “Is it still OK to have children?” The answer is still “Yes, it is.”


About the Author

Marian L. Tupy is a senior policy analyst at the Cato Institute and editor of Human Progress.

Why Falling Birth Rates Aren't Something to Celebrate

Traditionally, Easter is a celebration of new life and fertility, replete with rabbit imagery — a symbol of fecundity. Both globally and in the United States, birth rates are falling, and there is considerable debate as to whether that is a good or bad thing. On one side of the argument are those who believe that declining birth rates are a good thing, particularly from an environmental perspective. They are urging people to have fewer children. On the other hand, there are those who believe that overpopulation is not an acute problem, because birth rates are already declining. In fact, they argue, a smaller population could have negative economic consequences.

Let’s look at the former first. Earlier this month, HBO host Bill Maher said, “I can’t think of a better gift to our planet than pumping out fewer humans to destroy it,” and he claimed that the world is “too crowded.”  He is not alone in that belief. More than a third of U.S. millennials worry about the environmental effect of childbearing, including congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, who recently questioned the ethics of producing more children. 

Some anti-natalists even call for government action to make birth rates fall even faster than they already do. Many prominent environmentalists — from Johns Hopkins University bioethicist Travis Rieder to entertainer Bill Nye “The Science Guy” — support tax penalties or other state-imposed punishments for having “too many” children. Bowdoin College’s Sarah Conly wrote a recent book advocating a “one-child” policy — like the one that China once had and had to abandon.

This group sees a population decrease as an urgent necessity, primarily because they believe that population growth leads to resource depletion. But new research inspired by the famous wager between economist Julian Simon and biologist Paul Erhlich has found just the opposite. Consider the amount of time it takes a typical worker to earn enough money to buy commodities — the “time price” of those items, so to speak.

The recently published “Simon Abundance Index” found that for each 1 percent increase in the world’s population, the average time price of 50 commonly used commodities declined by 0.934 percent. In other words, for each 1 percent increase in population, the cost of commodities has fallen by almost 1 percent. Each child born today eventually grows up to make resources less scarce, on average, by contributing to innovation and the global economy.

So, worrying about overpopulation makes little sense.

Moreover, fertility rates are falling already. In developing countries, falling fertility rates are driven by fewer infant and childhood deaths, allowing for smaller family sizes. More women in education and the workforce also result in lower birth rates. In developed countries, unrealistic social and cultural parenting expectations are making childbearing more burdensome than was the case for previous generations. Economist Bryan Caplan, for example, has argued that, in the United States, parents overestimate the work needed to be a successful parent and have fewer children than they otherwise would have as a result of that misconception. 

In fact, falling fertility rates could have far-reaching negative economic consequences as countries face aging and the working population shrinks. With fewer people to innovate, the pace of progress could slow down. As the authors of the “Simon Index” noted, “In addition to more labor, a growing population produces more ideas. More ideas lead to more innovations, and more innovations improve productivity. Finally, higher productivity translates to better standards of living.”

And the more new people in the world engaging in cooperative exchange and putting their minds toward solving problems — including environmental problems — the better off we will all be. Because, as Julian Simon put it, human beings truly are the ultimate resource. Whatever problems we face in the future, it is human ingenuity that will need to rise to the occasion.


About the Author

Chelsea Follett is a policy analyst at the Cato Institute and managing editor of Human Progress.

How Anti-Humanism Is Gaining Ground

“We must act now [by] having fewer children” to prevent environmental catastrophe, including the extinction of millions of species. That’s according to a recent CNN segment on the newly released report of the United Nations’ Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services. To emphasize the supposed link between population growth and a planetary disaster, CNN interviewed the Stanford University biologist and author of the 1968 bestselling book, The Population Bomb, Paul Ehrlich.

Ehrlich, who has been warning of a link between overpopulation and a series of environmental catastrophes for over five decades, has previously stated that Earth can only sustain 500 million people. There are currently over 7.7 billion people on the planet. Surely there are better ways to deal with environmental problems than reducing the human race by 94 percent. Alas, in spite of Ehrlich’s long record of failed predictions, more and more people are embracing his anti-humanist agenda.

Whether it’s Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s questioning the morality of childbearing, a birth-strike movement that encourages people to forego parenthood despite the “grief that [they say they] feel as a result,” or political commentator Bill Maher claiming, “I can’t think of a better gift to our planet than pumping out fewer humans to destroy it,” a misanthropic philosophy known as “anti-natalism” is going increasingly mainstream.

The logical conclusion of this anti-humanist ideology is, depressingly, the Voluntary Human Extinction Movement (Vhemt). According to its founder, activist Les Knight, Vhemt (pronounced “vehement”) is gaining steam. “In the last year,” Knight told the Daily Mail, “I’ve seen more and more articles about people choosing to remain child-free or to not add more to their existing family than ever. I’ve been collecting these stories and last year was just a groundswell of articles, and, in addition, there have been articles about human extinction.”

Over 2,000 new people have “liked” the movement’s Facebook page since January and, more importantly, the number of people fulfilling the movement’s goals (regardless of any affiliation with the movement itself) is growing. The U.S. birth rate is at an all-time low. According to the latest figures from the Center for Disease Control, the total U.S. fertility rate for 2017 was 1.77 babies per woman (i.e., below the replacement rate of 2.1 babies per woman needed to maintain the current population).

Recent examples of writings that are warming to the idea of human extinction include the New Yorker’s “The Case for Not Being Born,” NBC News’ “Science proves kids are bad for Earth. Morality suggests we stop having them,” and the New York Times’ “Would Human Extinction Be a Tragedy?” which muses that, “It may well be, then, that the extinction of humanity would make the world better off.” Last month, the progressive magazine FastCompany released a disturbing video entitled, “Why Having Kids Is the Worst Thing You Can Do for the Planet.”

Some anti-natalists are not content with promoting the voluntary reduction of birth rates, and would prefer to hurry the process along with government intervention. Various prominent environmentalists, from Johns Hopkins University bioethicist Travis Rieder to science popularizer and entertainer Bill Nye, support the introduction of special taxes or other state-imposed penalties for having “too many” children. In 2015, Bowdoin College’s Sarah Conly published a book advocating a “one-child” policy, like the one China abandoned following disastrous consequences including female infanticide and a destabilizing gender ratio of 120 boys per 100 girls, which left around 17 percent of China’s young men unable to find a Chinese wife. Even after that policy’s collapse, she maintains it was “a good thing.”

Modern-day anti-humanism emerged in the 1970s, midwifed by a doomy strain of environmental pessimism led by Ehrlich (but with intellectual antecedents dating back to Thomas Malthus in the 18th century). Ehrlich’s widely read The Population Bomb originally opened with the lines, “The battle to feed all of humanity is over. In the 1970s hundreds of millions of people will starve to death in spite of any crash programs embarked upon now.”

Thanks to human ingenuity in the form of the Green Revolution, that didn’t happen. The challenge of feeding a growing population led instead to technological innovation and that produced a solution: higher agricultural productivity and falling food prices. Far from leading to starvation, more humans exchanging ideas and innovating have ensured that the supply of food rose to meet growing demand. Ehrlich quietly removed his failed prognostication from subsequent editions of his book, but his ideas caught on among some strands of the environmentalist movement.

Undeterred, Ehrlich and many likeminded doomsayers are still claiming that disaster is imminent, despite their previous predictions repeatedly failing to materialize. Just last year, Ehrlich compared human population growth to the spread of cancer, informing The Guardian, “It is a near certainty in the next few decades, and the risk is increasing continually as long as perpetual growth of the human enterprise remains the goal of economic and political systems … As I’ve said many times, ‘perpetual growth is the creed of the cancer cell.’”

Once anti-humanism had infected the environmental movement, it soon spread through parts of the political Left. Robert Zubrin’s book Merchants of Despair gives an overview of the partial reversal of the Left's traditional commitment to advancing the human condition, in favor of a project that viewed humanity as a plague upon the Earth,

Instead of The Grapes of Wrath, they carried copies of The Population Bomb … Instead of “Stop the War,” their buttons read “Stop at two” [children]; instead of “Power to the people,” their slogan was “People pollute.”

These anti-natalists believe that a world without humans, or with significantly fewer of them, would eventually revert to a pollution-free paradise with abundant natural resources.

As one human extinction proponent put it just last month in a letter to his local paper, “In approximately 20,000 years after human extinction, this magnificent resistant biosphere will return to its perfection.” If humanity fails to reduce its numbers, extinction proponents fear resource shortages and environmental catastrophe. “How could anybody,” an official Vhemt member, Gwynn Mackellen, wondered aloud to The Guardian, “produce a new human when the effects of humans are very obvious, I feel, and the situation is getting worse.”

These extinction advocates, however, have misunderstood the evidence about population growth’s true impact on the planet. The late University of Maryland economist Julian Simon rejected the idea of overpopulation as a problem in his 1981 book The Ultimate Resource. He believed that, on the contrary, more people in the world means more people to solve problems. “There is no physical or economic reason,” he wrote, “why human resourcefulness and enterprise cannot forever continue to respond to impending shortages and existing problems with new expedients that, after an adjustment period, leave us better off than before the problem arose.”

In 1980, Simon made a bet with Ehrlich. Ehrlich would choose a “basket” of raw materials that he expected to become scarcer in the coming years. At the end of a specified time period, if the inflation-adjusted price of the basket was higher than at the beginning of the period, that would indicate the materials had indeed become scarcer and Ehrlich would win the wager; if the price was lower, that would mean the resources had instead become more abundant, and Simon would win. The stakes would be the ultimate price difference of the basket at the beginning and end of the time period. Simon ultimately won, and Ehrlich duly sent him a check for the price difference.

New research, inspired by the Ehrlich-Simon wager, has further confirmed that, contrary to the anti-humanists’ claims, population growth goes hand-in-hand with more abundant resources. Consider the amount of time it takes an average worker to earn enough to buy a basket of common commodities-the “time-price” of those items. The Simon Abundance Index found that between 1980 and 2017, “the time-price of our basket of 50 basic commodities declined by 0.934 percent for every one percent increase in population. That means that every additional human being born on our planet seems to be making resources proportionately more plentiful for the rest of us.”

There are some notable environmentalists who recognize the fact that humans are capable of creating abundance instead of scarcity. Environmentalists who take the rational and techno-optimistic view, sometimes called “enlightenment environmentalists” or “ecomodernists,” still believe in humanity’s ability to tackle environmental problems with innovation and ingenuity. Examples include Harvard University’s Steven Pinker and the Breakthrough Institute’s Michael Shellenberger, who both hold that technologies such as nuclear power can reduce emissions. And the research of Rockefeller University environmental science professor Jesse H. Ausubel, who was integral to setting up the world’s first climate change conference in Geneva in 1979, has shown how technological progress can allow nature to rebound, even while food and other resources have become more plentiful.

Unfortunately, ecomodernists appear to be a minority within the environmental movement. Too many people still agree with Ehrlich that humans are analogous to cancer cells and long for the reduction or even extinction of our species. One third of Americans in the millennial generation say they are deeply concerned about the environmental impact of having children. Not that long ago, well within the living memory of a millennial such as myself, a 2002 episode of Aaron Sorkin’s popular political drama The West Wing could still quip that “Death is bad” remained a praiseworthy left-wing position. The scriptwriter took it for granted that everyone ought to be in favor of human flourishing. If only that were still the case.


About the Author

Chelsea Follett is a policy analyst at the Cato Institute and managing editor of Human Progress.

The Destruction of Ivory Poaching and the Illegal Wildlife Trade: Part 5

The greatness of a nation and its moral progress can be judged by the way its animals are treated.
— Mahatma Gandhi

United Kingdom

As profits become ever greater, the illegal wildlife trade has become a transnational organised enterprise, With the passing of the 2018 Ivory Act, the British government confirmed the United Kingdom’s (UK) ban on ivory sales to help protect elephants for future generations. UK Environment Secretary Michael Gove confirmed robust measures that will be brought into force through primary legislation and the ban will cover ivory items of all ages – not only those produced after a certain date. The maximum available penalty for breaching the ban will be an unlimited fine or up to five years in jail.

Conservation organizations have been working for several years to get an ivory ban approved in the UK. When this proposal was put up for consultation by the Department for Environment, Food, and Rural Affairs, it received more than 70,000 responses, with more than 88 percent in favor of the ban.

The UK’s ivory ban, which still needs to be signed into law, applies to all ivory except items produced before 1947 with less than 10 percent ivory by volume, musical instruments made before 1975 with less than 20 percent ivory, rare antiques more than 100 years old (which must be assessed by a specialist first), and certain items traded between accredited museums. These exceptions are stricter than the United States’ (U.S.) ivory ban, which went into place in 2016 after a landmark joint announcement between the U.S. and China. The U.S. allows trade of ivory antiques more than a hundred years old and of items with up to 50 percent ivory, with a few other qualifying factors. By covering ivory items of all ages and adopting these narrow exemptions, the UK’s ban will be one of the toughest in the world. The US federal ban exempts all items older than 100 years as well as items with up to 50 percent ivory content. The Chinese ban exempts ivory “relics”, without setting a date before which these must have been produced.

Conservationists are now urging the EU as a whole to address the ivory trade. They argue that a legal trade provides cover for smugglers and traffickers to “launder” poached ivory by giving it paperwork that makes it appear to have been obtained legally. At a recent European Environment Council, the UK called for EU member states to follow the Government’s lead and ban commercial trade in raw ivory – which is already banned in the UK – within the EU as soon as possible.

In October 2018, the UK hosted the fourth international conference on the illegal wildlife trade, bringing global leaders to London to tackle the strategic challenges of the trade. This followed the 2014 London conference on the illegal wildlife trade, and subsequent conferences in Botswana and Vietnam.

A ban on ivory sales in the UK would build on government work both at home and overseas to tackle poaching and the illegal ivory trade. The UK military is training African park rangers in proven poacher interception techniques in key African countries, and Border Force officers share their expertise in identifying smuggled ivory with counterparts worldwide to stop wildlife trafficking.

While much of the demand for ivory comes from Asia, Europe also has a large market. A ban on the commercial trade in ivory across international borders has been in effect since 1990, but many countries continue to allow the domestic buying and selling of ivory. While it’s unclear how much legal ivory has been bought and sold within European Union borders in recent years, about 7.6 tons of legal ivory have been exported from the European Union (EU) since 2003, according to the London-based Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA). The UK exports more legal ivory than any other country in the world, according to an EIA analysis.

In August 2017 when the EIA published this analysis, Executive Director Mary Rice said, “UK ivory exports are stimulating consumer demand globally, especially in Hong Kong and China, two of the world’s largest markets for both legal and illegal ivory. As well as fueling demand for ivory, the UK’s legal trade provides opportunities for the laundering of illegal ivory, both within the country and internationally.” China shut down its legal ivory market on December 31, 2017, and Hong Kong announced an end to its market in 2021. 

China and Hong Kong

An international ivory trade ban went into effect in 1990, but China continued to allow, and in some cases promoted, ivory sales within its borders. Its legal ivory supply came primarily from a one-time sale of ivory from a handful of African countries in 2008, but this legal domestic market provided the opportunity for traffickers to slip illegally obtained ivory into China’s legal supply.

China is widely believed to be the world’s largest consumer of ivory, both legal and illegal, in demand for intricate carvings, trinkets, chopsticks, and other items. Ivory is an industry that has been driven largely by China’s booming middle class, in which some people covet ivory as a status symbol. Wildlife conservation groups say that Asia, and China in particular, are key for the industry’s existence and has largely contributed to the slaughter of approximately 30,000 African elephants each year.

Following a 2014 joint pledge with the United States to ban domestic trade of ivory, all of China’s government-licensed carving factories and ivory retailers closed on December 31, 2017. China and the U.S. had both agreed to “near-complete” ivory bans, which prohibit the buying and selling of all but a limited number of antiques and a few other items. The U.S.’s ivory ban went into effect in June 2016. In a statement at the time, the Humane Society of the United States said this was the first time that the presidents of the two countries had made a specific, shared commitment to protect wildlife.

The Chinese government's ban on its domestic ivory trade sends a message to the general public in China that the life of elephants is more important than the ivory carving culture,” said Gao Yufang, a Ph.D. student in conservation biology and cultural anthropology at Yale University and a National Geographic Explorer. “It is difficult to predict to what extent China's ivory ban can reduce elephant poaching in Africa because many factors are at play,” Mr. Yufang said to National Geographic, “But it has been observed that in China prices of ivory products have dropped considerably, and the market is already shrinking.”

Regarding experts’ belief that the key to making the ban successful is enforcement and education, Mr. Yufang said, “Law enforcement in China tends to be hindered by poor coordination between different agencies, unclear authorization and accountability, and a lack of capable personnel on the ground.” In Chinese the word for ivory is xiangya, meaning “elephant tooth,” which has led many to believe erroneously that ivory can be taken from an elephant without inflicting harm.

China’s internal ivory control systems have failed. The nonprofit International Fund for Animal Welfare did polling in 2007 in China that found that 70 percent of respondents didn’t realize an elephant had to be killed to take its ivory. A recent survey by the World Wildlife Fund and the wildlife trade monitoring organization TRAFFIC, however, found that only 19 percent of people surveyed knew about the ban. Once they were told of the ban, 86 percent of those surveyed said they supported it. In a separate poll surveyed by National Geographic Society and GlobeScan, while 79 percent of Chinese people said they’d support a total ban on ivory, the result also found that 36 percent of those surveyed in China wanted to buy ivory and could afford it, while another 20 percent wanted to buy it but couldn’t afford it.

Hong Kong announced an end to its market in 2021. The Chief Executive in Council has approved a three-step plan to phase out Hong Kong’s ivory trade where the first is to immediately ban the import and re-export of all elephant hunting trophies and any remaining post-Convention ivory items. Step two is to ban the import and re-export of pre-Convention ivory, and to subject those in the local market to licensing control three months after the step one ban. It will become an offence to possess pre-Convention ivory for commercial purposes without a Licence to Possess. The final step is to ban the possession of all ivory for commercial purposes. It will take effect on December 31, 2021, but the government said the measures to be implemented in steps two and three will not be applicable to antique ivory.

Hong Kong’s government said that, with a five-year grace period, “it is unlikely that the phasing out of the local ivory trade will cause much impact” as many ivory traders have already undergone business transformations. The government said it will also increase the penalties under the Protection of Endangered Species of Animals and Plants Ordinance through the same legislative exercise. 

United States

As part of the 2014 joint pledge between the Obama administration and China, new restrictions on the ivory trade were designed to create "a near complete ban" on the commercial sale of African elephant ivory in the U.S. The ivory ban went into effect in June 2016.

There was already a near-total ban in the United States on commercial ivory, and new restrictions put in place saw the ban of commercial imports of African elephant ivory, including antiques, and restrictions that limited the number and types of hunting trophies that could be brought into the country. Individual states enacted or proposed bills to further restrict ivory sales.

American rules governing international and domestic trade in elephant ivory are complex, complicated by unequal enforcement over the years. The new rules are designed to force people with ivory to prove how and when an item was imported. Legitimate imports of, say, antique ivory for personal use or for use in approved musical instruments will have to come through designated "antique" ports. Or ivory will have to be designated for scientific or law enforcement purposes. The new rules shift the burden of proof for whether ivory is legal from the government to an ivory holder, whereas most wildlife criminals in the U.S. benefit from the government's having to prove that endangered wildlife in their possession was smuggled.

Sport hunters of African elephants are also restricted on what they can bring back to the U.S. Before the new rules, big-game hunters could use loopholes in African and U.S. laws to bring back large numbers of "culled" elephant heads, including ivory. Now, hunters will be limited to importing two dead elephants a year.

In 2017, the Trump administration appeared to reverse the restrictions on bringing back legally-hunted elephant trophies and the import of ivory from Zimbabwe and Zambia. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service spokesperson said the move would allow the two African countries to include US sport hunting as part of their management plans for the elephants and allow them to put “much-needed revenue back into conservation.” This seemed to go against the drop in the elephant population, of which elephants are listed in the US Endangered Species Act, which requires the US government to protect endangered species in other countries.

However, the Trump administration immediately announced that it would place a “hold” on the Fish and Wildlife Service reversal of the ban, pending further review and President Donald Trump tweeted: “Big-game trophy decision will be announced next week but will be very hard pressed to change my mind that this horror show in any way helps conservation of Elephants or any other animal."

I didn’t want elephants killed and stuffed and have the tusks brought back into this [country]. And people can talk all they want about preservation and all other things that they’re saying,” President Trump told British broadcaster Piers Morgan, referring to the argument proffered by his own Interior Secretary, Ryan Zinke, and others that fees paid by big-game hunters could help fund conservation programs. “In that case, the money was going to a government that was probably taking the money, OK?” In reference to the agency’s decision, he added, “That was done by a very high-level government person. As soon as I heard about it, I turned it around.

President Trump’s position ultimately lost in the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals, which in December 2017 ruled in a case brought by the National Rifle Association and Safari Club International that the Obama-era regulations had been improperly implemented.

The Destruction of Ivory Poaching and the Illegal Wildlife Trade: Part 4

We can judge the heart of a man by his treatment of animals.
— Immanuel Kant

Anti-Poaching Rangers

The requirement for inspiring urgent political action towards the safekeeping of the planet’s species cannot be overstated. This responsibility should transcend all levels of industry, business, and society as we strive for a generation of people that give, not take. Increasing pressure on the world’s natural assets is simply not sustainable.

Around the world, 595 rangers died while working between 2009 and 2016. Many of them were murdered by armed poachers. Anti-poaching rangers form the first and last line of defence for nature. Without the right training, equipment, management and support they cannot defend the World’s natural heritage for future generations.

Across much of Africa anti-poaching tactics have remained largely unchanged for decades. Small groups of under trained and poorly equipped rangers are sent out for days on end to conduct patrols in remote and dangerous locations. Modern-day poachers have evolved and routinely utilise military tactics and equipment to kill high-target species, such as elephants, rhinos and gorillas. In the cross-fire, rangers are also killed. Seeing this shortfall, organizations such as the International Anti-Poaching Foundation (IAPF) set out in 2009 to fill the gap.

The IAPF has a structured approach to conservation, employing the relevant tactics and technology to defend wildlife from the ever-increasing threat of poaching within protected areas. Anti-poaching, however, is only a portion of the conservation solution. To be a part of successful projects, the IAPF works alongside partners who specialise in community engagement and development, research and development, wildlife rescue and biodiversity management.

Anti-poaching protects community assets, creates jobs, promotes training and education, and reduces habitat destruction. In the many water stressed countries of southern Africa, future generations will depend on these critical natural environments for their very well-being. They have deployed projects in Kenya, Mozambique, Zimbabwe, and South Africa. 

Using Technology to Find Poachers

Poaching has become a hot topic for technology to tackle. Hidden and remote cameras and technologies have long played a role in conservation to find locations and movements of animals and study them and now they are increasingly being used to track poachers. Some of the world's biggest technology companies are using artificial intelligence, facial recognition software, drones and satellite tracking to assist in the battle against the illegal wildlife trade.

Intel is supplying cameras that can recognise human figures to help quickly identify trespassers for ranger teams. Their hidden cameras, known as Trailguard AI, will be deployed this year to the Serengeti by wildlife charity Resolve to protect elephants, and will also be brought to Africa and South East Asia. In the Serengeti, Intel claims its new cameras can help augment the capabilities of 150 rangers when they are tracking and monitoring poachers.

"It is about making sure [technology] is context specific and it responds to the needs of people working on the ground rather than retrofitting it to a situation," said Paul De Ornellas, chief science adviser at the World Wildlife Foundation (WWF). In 2014, an effort to bring anti-poaching drones to Namibia by the WWF, sponsored for USD $5 million by Google, was driven out of the country by the government, citing security concerns about the drones. Specialised infrared cameras are being used in the Maasai Mara in Kenya. These infrared systems, deployed by the WWF and developed by Flir Systems, have led to dozens of arrests of poachers. In Malawi, specialised thermal imaging BatHawk drones, from the non-profit African Parks and commercial drone operator UAV & Drone Solutions have been trialed.

Not all conservationists are convinced by the need for technology: "All this tech comes along and a heck of a lot of it proves to be useless and expensive," says Adam Welz, an independent conservationist. Many poachers come heavily armed and in South Africa rangers have to risk their lives for as little as a few hundred dollars per month, meaning tech experiments rather than additional boots on the ground are not always welcomed.

In the case of the drones, Mr. Welz adds they are banned above parks in some cases in Kenya and Namibia, and some of the small drones have limitations, such as their lightweight batteries lasting around 30 minutes, make them hard to use in the vast wilderness. Mr. Welz points to the ethical challenge of turning a wildlife park into a veritable armed enclosure, of drones and thermal detectors. Ultimately, he wonders whether this cash could go better towards helping local communities who turn to poaching as a way to escape poverty.

The Meerkat System in the Kruger National Park in South Africa has proved a success as it uses remote thermal imaging cameras and is solar powered and portable, so it can be transported by truck or helicopter to hotspots. The system claimed to catch 90 poachers in its first six months of operation in 2017.

In collaboration with the US group Digital Democracy, a drone operation in Guyana, South America helped map lands for the local Wapichana indigenous people so they could stake their claim against illegal logging companies to 7 million acres. They have also built an online early warning system, using satellite data.

How the Left Has Been Winning the Culture War

At the heart of Generation Identity is the concept of metapolitics. It is our raison d’être, it is at the basis of everything we do and it is indispensable to our struggle. To understand the effectiveness of our activism, one must first understand metapolitical action. So what is metapolitics? It constitutes a form of political activity that is primarily concerned with culture, ideas and values.  Instead of contesting for people’s votes via electioneering, we contest for people’s minds via on-the-street activism. We engage in a culture and information war, constantly aiming to feed our ideas into the political bloodstream in order to shift what we call the ‘Overton window’, that is the window of what speech is considered acceptable.  Our activism serves to normalise our ideas, to popularise our identitarian concepts, to spread awareness of our country’s biggest threats, to reverse the dehumanisation which patriots have been subjected to, to act as a pressure on the state and patriotic parties and to activate the silent majority. Watch Martin Sellner explore the theoretical background to Metapolitics Here.

History is littered with successful metapolitical movements like ours, the most recent and most monumental example of this being perhaps the Sexual Revolution of the 1960s. The 1960s saw a seismic shift in the metapolitical landscape of both North America and Europe. A vocal minority noisily challenged the well-established traditional values of their contemporary society and managed to bring about a complete change in the zeitgeist. Traditional philosophies were supplanted by the philosophy of ‘progressive free love’. Who was at the source of this metapolitical success? Whilst it is difficult to pin down to one group or factor, we can attribute much of the responsibility to the ‘New Left’, a broad movement of activists who campaigned on issues such as feminism, gay rights, abortion, gender roles, drug policy reform etc. What is important about the New Left however, is that they, like us, wanted a complete overhaul in the values and culture of the status quo. They rejected the ‘Old Left’, thus they abandoned dialectical materialism, labour issues and the class struggle in favour of social issues and fighting for ‘minority groups’.

Their reasoning was that the Old Left’s focus on class was unsuccessful, and so they had a rethink, deciding that moving forward they were going to transition to the values of counter-culture, meaning they would push ideas that conflicted with the traditional social norms of the time. Their rejection of the Old Left is very similar to our rejection of the Old Right for their repeated failures over the past few decades. Through non-violent civil disobedience and activism, New Left groups created a counter-vision and counter-culture that appealed to the youth. Some famous examples of their activism include when 3,000 ‘Yippies’ (an offshoot from the hippie movement) took over Grand Central terminal in New York during their celebration of the Spring Equinox in 1968. In 1967, two Yippy leaders led an action that attempted an exorcism and levitation of the Pentagon, whereby activists surrounded the Pentagon and began chanting ritualistic chants. The idea behind this was to perform something that matched the absurdity of the Vietnam War.

For decades now, the left has been winning the culture war, and only recently have we witnessed a comeback from the right. We’re experiencing this cultural fightback in two main ways, one being alternative media and the other being patriotic street movements.  They are complementary and not in conflict with each other, since while one counters the ideology of multiculturalism in the digital space and helps redpill many normal people, we in Generation Identity mobilise those awakened people. We offer them a platform to do something, since they can embed themselves in the cultural struggle by partaking in actions, much like the New Left did during the 1960s. Generation Identity has scored immense successes already, as both Defend Europe campaigns yielded tangible results. While the first mission in the Mediterranean was ongoing, Italy decided to close all its ports to the NGOs and Libyan authorities banned them from their waters. After the second mission in the Alps, the French Interior Ministry promised to send troops to the French-Italian border to clamp down on illegal immigration. These two symbolic actions mustered enough pressure on the elites that they addressed the concerns raised. As opposed to staying at home leaving comments on online forums and comment sections, our members have bravely opted to get on the streets and do something for their country. For Generation Identity offers them a vision and a blueprint to affect real political change, rather than endless rallies and mindless edgy stunts. We channel the political frustrations of the youth into smart, creative, original and tactful activism. While doing this, we try to maintain our professional, disciplined, dynamic and organised image, as we understand the importance of all these things in communicating our message and shifting the Overton window. We play the long game, aspiring to capture the minds of the majority in order to shape public opinion and therefore redefine the parameters of the Overton window.  We provide the European youth more than just the option to like and share videos or vote every 5 years. We are the generation that have answered the call to defend what’s ours.


About the Author

Benjamin Jones is Leader of Generation Identity United Kingdom.

The Veneer of Civilization Slipped Away

They Shall Not Grow Old is an extremely painful film to watch. I’ve seen most of the major war films but I can’t recall one that is more powerful overall – powerful in the sense that it shakes you to your spiritual core.

This film puts you right there as a middle-class Briton in the midst of the Great War, step-by-step from regular civilian to the killing fields of the Western front, from the onset of patriotism at the beginning to the shattered hopes and lives of the end.

You are left with a deeply unsettling number of questions to which there are no obvious answers, questions such as where does war come from and why can’t it be stopped and why, after this experience, did humankind ever allow it to happen again? The whole thing seems too unbelievable to be true. And yet somehow this movie makes it too true to ignore, try as one might.

Audiences are wild for the film (99% on Rotten Tomatoes). It exudes integrity in every frame.

The headline pitch for the film is the technology that made it possible. The producers took old black-and-white spotty footage and colorized it, added sound, and removed the rough edges, seemingly bringing the dead back to life. It’s jaw-dropping for sure, and enough reason to keep watching. If you have had any moments of regret concerning the effect of CGI on modern filmography, this movie might change your mind.

But this is far from all that the film offers. The narrative is genius storytelling, somehow taking this ghastly, complex, ignored series of events with strange beginnings and turning it into a deeply engaging human drama about the mystically evil event we call war which baptizes mass murder and death in the cleansing waters of patriotic fervor.

Why do people choose to give up their normal, happy lives to risk debilitating injury and death in steamy swamps of the warzone, a life of sleeping while standing up in terrifying trenches while suffering gangrene and dysentery with the only hope of escaping resting with the obliteration of people just like yourself but for accident of geography who are living the same way just over the hill?

True, Britain had a draft. It was instituted in January of 1916. From the telling we receive here, however, it’s not obvious that it was necessary. The nation was calling and that was enough. Propaganda posters were everywhere. The pressure must have been unbearable. You surely do not doubt the superiority of your nation or distrust the claims of its leadership. Your friends and colleagues were going. Were you just going to let them risk their lives for the great cause of...something...while you languished at home as a cowardly shopkeeper?

I wondered what I would have done, but it seems rather obvious given the times. I too would have signed up. I’m sure every viewer was thinking the same. From that moment of mental decision making, you feel deep empathy with all the subsequent events: the disease, the terror, the heartache, the sense of betrayal after the war.

The world had never seen total war before, but these were also times of the advent of the total state that knew no limits to its power. The age of laissez-faire was said to be over, and scientific planning would take its place. We had the intelligence. We had modern technology. We had central banks to generate the necessary funds out of thin air.

Why stop with domestic policy? The total beckoned to be tested on the battlefield. From the Middle Ages through the Napoleonic and Colonial wars, the conflicts between nations were between states and those who worked for them. But with the Great War, it was different. Whole nations were now at war, not just governments. Not one was excluded from the massive mobilization.

As Ludwig von Mises wrote, “The first step which led from the soldiers’ war back to total war was the introduction of compulsory military service. It gradually did away with the difference between soldiers and citizens. The war was no longer to be only a matter of mercenaries; it was to include everyone who had the necessary physical ability.”

And so it began, almost as if by accident. The noble and heroic legend of wars past was summoned up in support of a new kind of war in which, as people soon discovered, individual bravery mattered hardly at all. The difference between those who came home in one piece and the many millions who were slaughtered was purely accidental. How can you fight bravely from a trench? Your main goal was survival and there was very little you can do to make it more or less likely.

Every viewer will be affected differently but here are the parts that stood out to me. I had read about mustard gas but had not seen or fully realized the implications. I had known that the soldiers in the war were young but as young as 15 years old? Remarkable. I hadn’t fully realized what a remarkable invention the tank was for war. I’ve heard stories of the tragedy afflicting returning soldiers from Vietnam but hadn’t known that it affected those returning from the Great War too.

There is a moment near the end in which a soldier is telling the story of successfully pushing through the German line and pouring into a trench occupied by German soldiers. Enemy combatants came out with their hands up. The aging soldier continued with the story: “at that moment, we had to decide what to do, so of course we….” – and if the audio had stopped there I had no way to predict what he would have said. He continued: “we captured them and led them back to camp.” Whew: four fewer murders that day than one might have expected.

You read every manner of speculation concerning the mysterious appearance of moral nihilism in the 20th century. Rarely is the Great War named as a culprit, but this film leaves no doubt. Hundreds, even thousands, of years of struggle to develop and cultivate a sense of decorum, decency, peace, human understanding, and, poof, in a seeming instant it is all gone.

The veneer of civilization slipped away, to quote one memoir. You either kill or be killed, on a scale not seen since the Black Death wiped out half of Europe’s population. It’s one thing to be killed by disease; another to manufacture with industrial equipment the means to inflict mass death on a population by design.

It’s no wonder that following this war, humankind’s hold on the idea of fixed moral categories became tenuous at best. The claims made by the ruling class that this war was conducted for righteous reasons, complete with mandatory church attendance during training, came to be revealed very obviously as a tissue of lies.

“Each chief of the murderers causes his colors to be blessed,” wrote Voltaire, “and solemnly invokes God before he goes to exterminate his neighbors. If a chief has only the fortune to kill two or three thousand men, he does not thank God for it; but when he has exterminated about ten thousand by fire and sword, and, to complete the work, some town has been leveled with the ground, they then sing a long song in four parts, composed in a language unknown to all who have fought, and moreover replete with barbarism. The same song serves for marriages and births, as well as for murders.”

Every idealist hopes that humankind can learn from history. There is plenty of evidence that we do not. Voltaire failed to stop war, despite valiant efforts. Still, we must face history, even its most brutal chapters, if there is to be any hope of finding our way back to peace and civilization. They Shall Not Grow Old makes a mighty contribution to that goal.


About the Author

Jeffrey A. Tucker is Editorial Director for the American Institute for Economic Research. He is the author of many thousands of articles in the scholarly and popular press and eight books in 5 languages. He speaks widely on topics of economics, technology, social philosophy, and culture.

Universities Might Be Ruining Students’ Lives

One of the more interesting books I read in 2018 was Greg Lukianoff and Jonathan Haidt’s The Coddling of the American Mind: How Good Intentions and Bad Ideas Are Setting Up a Generation for Failure. It’s a book-length treatment of the ideas they discussed in their provocative and controversial 2015 article in The Atlantic, which blew up in part because of the infamous protests that happened at the University of Missouri, Yale University, and elsewhere a few weeks later.

Lukianoff is President and CEO of the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE)—a campus free speech advocacy organization originally established by Alan Charles Kors—and author of Unlearning Liberty: Campus Censorship and the End of American Debate (2012) and Freedom From Speech (2014). Haidt is a social psychologist at New York University's Stern School of Business and author of The Happiness Hypothesis: Finding Modern Truth in Ancient Wisdom (2006) and The Righteous Mind: Why Good People Are Divided by Politics and Religion (2012).

They argue that we are treating students precisely the way we shouldn’t if we are trying to help them become resilient, functioning, and free people and exactly the way we should if we are intent on creating an army of neurotics. They focus on what they call “Three Great Untruths,” which they call "The Untruth of Fragility," "The Untruth of Emotional Reasoning," and "The Untruth of Us Versus Them."

So how do these work and how are they Untruths? The first, “The Untruth of Fragility,” mangles Nietzsche’s maxim “what doesn’t kill me makes me stronger” into “What Doesn’t Kill You Makes You Weaker.” It counsels avoidance of the unpleasant, the uncomfortable, and the inconvenient and accomplishes precisely the opposite of what real learning should do.

Learning is supposed to be uncomfortable: we are, in the university, supposedly fixing our ignorance, strengthening our moral fiber, and exchanging falsehood for truth. The authors of the book Make It Stick offer a series of insights that have informed my own teaching: students may not feel like they are learning through (for example) things like what is called “retrieval practice.”

It’s like going to the gym: it’s uncomfortable and unpleasant, and you will be sore afterward. But you are tearing down in order to build up. Of course, “if you are learning, you will be uncomfortable” is not the same thing as “if you are uncomfortable, then you are learning,” but constant affirmations of orthodoxy and fear of challenge is a great way to create mental and emotional weakness.

Think back to college. You probably have a friend or two or three who came from extremely sheltered Christian backgrounds who, upon encountering freedom and license in college went absolutely nuts. By carefully crafting their kids’ worldviews and insulating them from challenges, parents had actually created emotional and intellectual weaklings who could not stand up to challenges. Progressives have done the same if they have brought up children who have gone into college without seriously encountering and considering the idea that (for example) abortion might be wrong—and in this case it is compounded by the fact that they are extremely unlikely to encounter that argument on campus unless they encounter some activists who have a table set up on campus—and even then they aren’t likely to spend sustained time entertaining the possibility that a view they probably don’t question is wrong.

The second untruth, The Untruth of Emotional Reasoning, says “Always Trust Your Feelings.” One of my pet peeves (especially in the classroom) is when people begin sentences with “I feel.” I don’t trust feeling as a way of knowing, and while it’s not strictly true in all cases feeling can be the opposite of thinking.

This is especially dangerous given what we now know about the makeup of the human psyche, which is rife with biases and cognitive distortions documented and discussed in books like Rolf Dobelli’s The Art of Thinking Clearly and Daniel Kahneman’s Thinking, Fast and Slow.

When we are confronted with something we want to believe, for example, our minds implicitly ask “can I believe this?” When we are confronted with something we don’t want to believe, our minds implicitly ask “must I believe this?” The first embraces what we want to believe and gives it a subtle cognitive pass while the second rejects what we don’t want to believe and gives it a subtle cognitive push.

The third untruth, The Untruth of Us Versus Them, posits that life is a battle between Good People and Evil People. We are the Good People, of course, and They are the Evil People. You see this played out every day in the cesspools that Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, and so on can become. But, as Alexandr Solzhenitsyn reminded us, “The line dividing good from evil cuts through the heart of every human being.” Given our tendencies toward bias and cognitive distortion, we probably shouldn’t be as confident as we usually are about which side of the line we’re on.

Lukianoff and Haidt argue that in combination, these Great Untruths are a recipe for failure in life and everything.

The prophets of the Three Great Untruths mean us no ill. Note the subtitle again: “How Good Intentions and Bad Ideas Are Setting Up a Generation for Failure.” People mean well, but their good intentions and bad ideas about what we need to protect kids have created a toxic cognitive stew. Children, they argue, are actually antifragile, which is Nassim Nicholas Taleb’s term for systems like bones and immune systems that get stronger when they are tested.

By doing things like removing free play, scheduling every minute of every day for every kid, and stepping in to resolve every conflict instead of letting the kids work it out for themselves, we have actually done them a disservice by preventing them from using (and testing, and strengthening) the antifragile emotional, physical, and intellectual systems they should be developing.

As they point out, our misled-but-good intentions are a recipe for creating neurosis as kids don’t learn how to navigate a complex and difficult (but, paradoxically, much safer) world.

So what do we do about it?

First, they suggest taking a hard look at how we over-schedule and over-protect our kids. The world is a dangerous place, but it’s not nearly as dangerous a place as TV crime drama and the evening news would have us believe. Remember: “if it bleeds, it leads”—but what makes something newsworthy is that it is out of the ordinary.

Second, drawing on Lukianoff’s experience using Cognitive Behavioral Therapy to combat depression, they suggest identifying cognitive distortions—“catastrophizing,” for example, by thinking that everything will fall apart in the event that (say) Donald Trump is reelected in 2020 and using CBT techniques like writing out what caused a certain feeling of distress, how strongly we feel certain emotions, and the cognitive distortions that produced them.

Instead of trying to shield people from fearful ideas and words, we do them a service by teaching them effective ways to identify where they are blowing things out of proportion and take action.

“What is wrong with colleges and universities” is a venerable literary genre, and The Coddling of the American Mind is an important contribution. Haidt and Lukianoff are dedicated to recapturing and reinforcing the telos of the university, which is the search for truth. In the wake of a few years of high-profile campus unrest over ideas students find uncomfortable, we do well to heed their words.


About the Author

Art Carden is a Senior Fellow at the American Institute for Economic Research. He is also an Associate Professor of Economics at Samford University in Birmingham, Alabama.

The Destruction of Ivory Poaching and the Illegal Wildlife Trade: Part 3

The assumption that animals are without rights, and the illusion that our treatment of them has no moral significance, is a positively outrageous example of crudity and barbarity. Universal compassion is the only guarantee of morality.
— Arthur Schopenhauer

Criminal Profits

Most poachers and African criminal syndicates receive only 5-10 percent of the retail value for the animal parts they poach. Even in destitute parts of Africa and Asia this is little reward for what can be a very risky task of spending days tracking dangerous wildlife in their natural habitat. Coordinated efforts to exterminate rhino and elephants in central Africa, as well as systematic poaching in Southeast Asia and China, have made it easier for criminal syndicates to organize a market for tiger and leopard skins, elephant ivory, and rhino horn. This has provided a channel for low-level poachers and high-level rebel militias to sell their animal parts to middlemen who then smuggle the cargo en mass to destinations around the globe where the items are sold for exorbitant prices.

In 2013, the street-price for rhino horn in Asia was USD $60,000-100,000 per kilogram. At roughly USD $1,700-2,840 per ounce, more than the price of gold, it was believed to be a better investment than real estate and an easy way to show off wealth. According to anti-poaching forces in South Africa, a Mozambican poacher would earn R100,000 (USD $10,000) per hunt or over R200,000 per horn depending on the middleman.

In January of 2015, Ugandan officials seized a shipment of 137 ivory tusks weighing 700 kg and destined for Amsterdam. The ivory in this shipment had an estimated street value of USD $1.5 million or USD $2,142 per kilo or roughly USD $973 per pound. As a result of international pressure to end the illicit ivory trade, as well as other factors impacting legal domestic markets where elephant ivory is still sold, the average price of ivory in China has fallen to USD $730 per kilogram (USD $331 per pound).

India’s diverse ecosystems suffer from the loss of its the native species of Bengal tiger, leopard, Indian rhinoceros, and Asian elephant. In 2009, a single tiger skin smuggled from India would sell for 650,000 rupees in China, approximately USD $134,000 or 91,920 yuan. However, in recent years poaching and wildlife trafficking have received more attention and more poachers and traffickers are being sentenced to jail time for their crimes. 

Who Are the Poachers?

There are many kinds of individuals that illegally hunt animals, illegally fish, or harvest plants or trees that are not their own. Some groups and businesses may even illegally farm public land and destroy natural resources in the process. People commit these crimes for a variety of reasons. As a result, penalties vary from country to country and may result in long jail sentences or simply a small fine based on laws that may be decades old.

However, many non-governmental organizations and government agencies are strengthening anti-poaching and anti-trafficking enforcement in the field and through legislation around the world. They’re also cracking down on illegal poaching of all kinds as well as catching illegal smugglers of plant and animal products.

Wildlife poachers are the people on the ground illegally hunting, fishing, and snaring. Not all illegal hunting is the same and while some groups struggle to survive others are seeking out ways to exploit the environment and profit from it as quickly as possible even at the expense of their community and nation.

Subsistence Poachers and Farmers

Subsistence farmers often live in settled communities that must find ways of coexisting with the wildlife around them. At times this close proximity can lead to conflict between humans and wildlife and there are few governmental and non-governmental organizations that have solutions in place to prevent subsistence farmers from killing wildlife they feel threatened by.

Most subsistence poachers are simply people that live in rural areas that illegally hunt, seeking to put food on their table with game that they have shot, trapped, or foraged and cooked themselves. They are not big-game hunters and do not kill high-value wildlife with the intention of selling their trophies. However, many of these people may be committing crimes by shooting protected wildlife, illegally hunting, or hunting on private or protected land. With few other opportunities for employment or nourishment these individuals may be contributing to substantial losses of non-protected wildlife and in doing so negatively impact the balance of their local ecosystem.

Commercial Poachers

Commercial poachers throughout South America, Asia, and Africa are typically not specialized hunters. They kill local wildlife for their meat to be sold at local or regional markets. Illegal business contributes to the sale of millions of tonnes of bushmeat each year but may be the sole source of high-protein food for many rural people.

Organized Crime and Criminal Syndicates

Criminal syndicates are involved in distributing goods purchased from low-level poachers to national and international buyers. Top syndicates operate ivory and rhino horn trafficking operations at an international level and bribe businesses and government officials at all levels. The knowledge and connections of these syndicates are essential to many kinds of poachers and wildlife traffickers profiting from the illegal wildlife trade.

Rebel and Insurgent Militias

Armed insurgent groups and rebel forces throughout Africa have perpetrated human rights violations, war crimes, and claimed responsibility for terrorist attacks on the people of sovereign nations. Some of these groups are supplementing their income by mining for resources and committing large-scale poaching that is wiping out elephant and rhino populations in West and Central Africa.

Military and Corrupt Officials

Throughout the world there are military leaders, high-ranking officials, and state employees taking advantage of their position to exploit their country. Some choose the low-risk, high-reward illegal wildlife trade as their means of supplementing their income or currying favor with foreign governments.

Wildlife Traffickers and Smugglers

Individuals, regional syndicates, and transnational organizations around the world participate in the trafficking and sale of exotic animals and protected or endangered species without respect to local environmental sustainability, the safety of the animal, or legitimate pet shops and breeders that are forced to compete with poaching which undercuts their business. The United Nations Environment Programme estimates that the global illegal wildlife trade and environmental crimes, including illegal logging, is worth USD $70-213 billion each year. Some of these individuals also engage in cross-over crimes by helping to poach animals, falsify hunting or fishing licenses, traffick drugs, or smuggle undeclared goods. 

Who Are the Buyers of Illicit Wildlife Parts?

People that purchase illegally obtained wildlife parts such as bear paws, lion claws, and leopard skins are not directly poaching, but they may be indirectly contributing to poaching and trafficking of wildlife and their money may be funding organized crime, drug traffickers, and even rebel militias.

Buyers of Bear Parts

Bears feature prominently in many cultures because of their power and sometimes human-like qualities. In some cultures, bear paw is an exotic food dating back thousands of years. In some nations farming bears has become common, not necessarily for their meat, but for their bile which some believe has a medicinal effect.

Buyers of Elephant Ivory

Ivory tusks and worked ivory have been kept as ornamental trophies and a sign of wealth for hundreds of years across a variety of cultures. Ivory found its way into other objects as well and demand from by Japan, Europe, and the United States created a surge in elephant poaching that resulted in hundreds of tonnes of ivory being shipped out of East Africa each year since at least 1932.

Since then, elephant populations in Africa have dropped from millions to historically low levels of 400,000-750,000 based on population estimates carried out by independent organizations. The international ban in the trade of ivory, as well as individual nations banning certain ivory, has attempted to end the illegal hunting and conserve remaining populations of the two African elephant species and the one Asian elephant species. However not all nations are doing their part and illicit ivory is still making its way out of Africa.

Buyers of Rhino Horn

2,100 years ago, rhinoceros horn’s purported medicinal effects were documented in ancient Chinese texts. These purported cures continue to drive a large portion of real rhino horn sales in regions with cultures that believe in Traditional Chinese medicine, but people have found many uses for rhinoceros horn over the centuries. During China’s Tang dynasty (618-907) rhino horns from Africa were carved for the Emperor, a craft that would continue for a thousand years throughout many dynasties. In the 8th century C.E. rhinoceros horn began being used as an exotic material for Yemeni daggers, called janbiya.

While rhino populations during these periods are unknown, it’s presumed that the majority of rhinoceros horn was supplied from Africa because Asia’s rhinoceros were both less numerous and had smaller horns. Due to various methods of over-exploitation an entire rhino species in Africa had been nearly wiped out by 1900. This drastic decline lead to conservation efforts for some of the rhinoceros populations and those protections are responsible for the resurgence of the white rhinoceros in southern Africa. Over the next century demand for rhinoceros horn led to increased poaching, smuggling, and high-level corruption that fed demand even while international trade in rhino horn was being banned. Poaching has not ceased and since 2008 a resurgence of rhino poaching in southern Africa, driven largely by consumer demand from Asia, has left all species of rhinoceros in danger of extinction. Today, weight for weight, rhino horn is worth more than gold.

Buyers of Lion, Tiger, and Leopard Parts

Like bears, lions and tigers play a role in the traditions and cultures of many nations. For some cultures their body parts have come to symbolize strength, power, and even sexual potency, making tiger penis and meat a rare and expensive delicacy in some parts of the world. The skins of tigers are also prized, as are leopard skins which are used both for ornamentation and for traditional clothing in some cultures. The trade in tiger bones, heavily supplemented by lion bones, is used to create traditional folk medicines of dubious efficacy and wines.

Buyers of Pangolin Scales

Pangolins are a unique family of eight mammalian species which primarily eat ants and termites. Across parts of Africa and Asia they have historically been consumed for bushmeat as well as traditional medicines, despite a lack of evidence of any medicinal benefit. A resurgence in the use of traditional folk medicines has resulted in poaching of all pangolin species and an increase in pressure on Asian populations. This has resulted in an intercontinental trade of African pangolins poached primarily for the Asian market where their meat is considered a delicacy and their scales, blood, and other parts are incorporated into both folk remedies and pharmaceutical medicines.

Progress on Gay Rights Is Real, but Far from Uniform

Homosexuality has existed in all human societies and it is common in the animal kingdom as well. Yet, with a few exceptions, such as ancient Athens, where same-sex attraction between men was tolerated in a highly regulated and restricted form, homosexual behaviour has generally been frowned upon, discouraged and punished. As such, countless gay men and women suffered deep psychological anguish, imprisonment, torture and death on account of their sexual orientation.

Consider Alan Turing, the brilliant British mathematician. At the outbreak of World War II, he joined a team of codebreakers tasked with deciphering German military communications. The main focus of Turing’s efforts was to crack the “Enigma” code. The Enigma was a sophisticated enciphering machine used by the German U-boats, which preyed on convoys carrying war supplies from North America to Britain. The U-boats were so successful at torpedoing the supply vessels that Winston Churchill, the wartime British Prime Minister observed, “The only thing that ever really frightened me during the war was the U-boat peril.”

Turing and his fellow codebreakers developed a machine known as the Bombe, which decoded the enemy signals, allowed for allied convoys to be steered away from the U-boat wolf packs, and won the Battle of the Atlantic. As such, Turing and his fellow codebreakers saved countless lives and shortened World War II by several years.

Paradoxically, it was under Churchill’s second premiership in 1952 that Turing was arrested for homosexuality, which was illegal in Britain. He was found guilty of “gross indecency,” but spared jail in exchange for submitting to chemical castration. Sick and distraught, Turing committed suicide in 1954. Today, Turing is considered the father of the modern computer science and the annual “Turing Award” has been the highest accolade in the world of computing since 1966.

As with so much else, real progress in the treatment of homosexuals started during the Enlightenment, an intellectual movement that popularised the notion that private activities among consenting adults were not anyone else’s business. As the British utilitarian philosopher Jeremy Betham wrote in 1785, “A man’s own feelings, tho’ the best reason in the world for abhorring the thing, are none at all for abhorring the man who does it – how much less then are they for destroying him.” Indeed, “to destroy a man there should certainly be some better reason than mere dislike to his taste, let that dislike be ever so strong.”

France became the first nation to decriminalise homosexual activity in 1791. The Netherlands did so in 1811 and Brazil in 1830. A few more countries followed suit, but it was not until the sexual revolution of the 1960s and the 1970s that decriminalisation of homosexuality gained steam.

The number of countries that have decriminalised homosexual activity has soared since the 1960s.

The number of countries that have decriminalised homosexual activity has soared since the 1960s.

Attitudes to homosexuality today tends to be highly correlated with the level of urbanisation, education and income. People in urban and intellectually vibrant settings tend to be more frequently exposed to and accepting of unorthodox lifestyles. Similarly, relatively wealthy people, who are no longer concerned with existential challenges, tend to be more concerned with questions of “fairness”.

As New York University psychologist Jonathan Haidt has noted, “As societies get wealthier, life generally gets safer, not just due to reductions in disease, starvation, and vulnerability to natural disasters, but also due to reductions in political brutalisation. People get rights.” This more prosperous generation, then, starts caring about such things as women’s rights, animal rights, gay rights, human rights, and environmental degradation. “They start expecting more out of life than their parents did.”

Out of 195 independent countries in the world today, 128 have decriminalised homosexuality. But progress on gay equality has not been uniform. Homosexuality remains illegal in over 60 countries, with some regions, such as the Middle East and Africa, lagging behind the rest of the world. Also, progress in the treatment of homosexuals has not been irreversible, with notable backsliding in Russia and some African countries in recent years.

Still, when it comes to treatment of homosexuals, increasing urbanisation, education and wealth are likely to make people everywhere more socially tolerant in the future.


About the Author

Marian L. Tupy is a senior policy analyst at the Cato Institute and editor of HumanProgress.org

We Must Make Nature Worthless

For many generations, most Americans, and most others, have expected that humanity will use more and more of precious Nature, that rising use will cause scarcity and higher prices, and that higher prices will help protect what remains. Consistent with this view, the field of Ecosystem Services has emerged, and attempts to assign astronomical prices to them. Deluxe prices must show that much Nature is more valuable unused than used.

What if we turn this entire argument on its head? What if the future entails not more use of precious resources but flat or falling use? Not because they cost so much, or even because of taboos, but because the resources are not needed. Their price might fall to zero, as has the price of most of the timber in the state of Maine. Such drops could also lead to massive conservation, indeed restoration, of Nature, not only because protectors can acquire Nature cheaply, but because Nature is useless, or nearly so, at least in a traditional market sense.

Suppose households and businesses keep lifting their efficiency, and rebound or revenge offsets only a little of the gain, so that demand stagnates. Suppose we dematerialize, and suppose the materials we use are not scarce but the most common elements in the crust such as magnesium, aluminum, and notably silicon.  Silicon makes not just chips but stone and glass. I personally love glass bricks.

And instead of weaving ourselves ever more tightly into the biosphere, suppose we decouple not only from energy and materials but from the biosphere itself.

Human ancestors, such as Australopithecus, were completely immersed in the biological system of the savannah and forests, and depended on the negentropic flux of solar light, captured by chlorophyll. Subsequent agricultural humans came to control some of the biological system, to augment productivity and consequently number. Technological and scientific humans could largely cut ties with the biosphere and construct an internal world.

In fact, one can frankly ask whether resources and environment matter anymore, even the climate about which so many now demonstrate and negotiate. As I have written previously:

 

High incomes, great longevity, and large population concentrations have been achieved in every class of environment on Earth. We manufacture computers in hot, dry Phoenix and cool, wet Portland. We perform heart surgery in humid Houston and snowy Cleveland. Year round we grow flowers in the Netherlands and vegetables in Belgium. The metro in Budapest runs regardless of the mud that slowed Hungarians for a thousand years. In Berlin and Bangkok we work in climate-controlled office buildings. We have insulated travel, communications, energy generation, food availability, and almost all major social functions from all but the most extreme environmental conditions of temperature and wind, light and dark, moisture, tides, and seasons.

Humanity’s goal is to render ourselves independent from the natural system. For all the poetry about Nature, we have basically retreated into walled cities, autarchic except for the input of energy or negentropy. Most of this no longer arrives by chlorophyll. Indeed, some is now furnished by uranium, and most, indeed nearly all, could be, as we get better at manufacturing hydrogen to carry energy around. The profound importance of nuclear power, as Einstein and other atomic scientists realized, is its facility to decouple us from the biosphere.

In practice, the natural trend toward the megalopolis is creating zones of great density, leaving the possibility of creating very low density patches or “sanctuaries” where people might go when they wish or simply observe through millions of mini-cameras placed here and there, including on other animals. The built environment could grow from 5-6% of the land surface today to, say, 10%. Meanwhile, we will continue the shift, toward landless and vertical agriculture.  Eventually, the microbes will do the work of most food production. We can never decouple from the microbes. I hope they know how to form political action committees.

Cities will function essentially as closed systems where most materials, including water, will be recycled. The only physical input need be free energy and the only output heat, or negentropy.

From the point of view of the materials balance, the main factor that must be accounted is the dowry, that is, the materials locked into the system and the losses in the recycling process. My mentor Cesare Marchetti estimated a generous and manageable dowry of 100 tons of materials/person, of which 30 tons are “high energy” materials such as metals and organics and 70 tons are “low-energy” materials such as concrete. We will never dematerialize completely but we can stop grinding up new crust.

A highly efficient hydrogen economy, landless agriculture, industrial ecosystems in which waste virtually disappears during this silicon century -- these can enable large, prosperous human populations to co-exist with the whales and the lions and the eagles and all that underlie them.  The primeval forest can tranquilly regrow for the amusement of naturalists. Ponder the walled city as the prototype of the spaceships we may eventually send to other parts of the universe.

The 1952 Paley Commission Report that started the think-tank Resources for the Future famously and correctly wrote, “The growth of demand is at the core of the materials problem we face.” We may still worry for a few decades about exhausting primary resources and overloading the environment, as we pass peak child and peak use of just about everything except information. We will keep doubling our use of information every ten years, and that will liberate the rest. And within another 60 years we may smile, because our actual achievement will have been to achieve conservation by establishing an enduring trajectory of making Nature useless. 


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About the Author

Jesse H. Ausubel is Director of the Program for the Human Environment at The Rockefeller University and Board Member of HumanProgress.org

The Fallacy of Us, We, and Our

Deirdre McCloskey never tires of reminding her readers that words matter. She’s right to do so.

The words and phrases that we use are not neutral vessels, akin to shipping containers, for transporting thoughts and ideas. Unlike shipping containers which assist only in altering the location of their cargoes but do nothing to change the substance of those cargoes, words and phrases not only transport thoughts and ideas from mind to mind, they also affect the substance of the thoughts and ideas that they transport. Special care must therefore be exercised when choosing our words. Absent such care, we’re likely to mislead not only others but also ourselves.

Here are two examples – one specific, the other general – of words and phrases that easily mislead.

“National Income”

This technical meaning of “national income” is quite innocent. National income is simply the summation of the incomes of each and every American resident – which, in fact, is what economists and statisticians will tell you “national income” means. But use of this term often conveys impressions very different from its technical meaning.

First, talk of “national income” risks creating the mistaken impression that the earning of this income results from conscious decision-making and planning – decision-making and planning similar to that of members of the Jones household who consciously decide which careers to pursue and how to allocate the time of both Mr. and Ms. Jones between working in the market to earn monetary incomes and working at home to produce household outputs.

Second, the term “national income” is too easily interpreted as referring to income that we possess collectively and, therefore, that we can consciously spend as a collective entity. That is, “national income” is too easily mistaken to be analogous to household income: just as the household income of the Joneses is owned, and available to be spent, collectively by the Joneses, the national income of Americans is regarded – wrongly – as being owned, and available to be spent, collectively by Americans.

This misimpression has serious consequences. I recently heard a pundit insist that we Americans should stop worrying about Uncle Sam’s indebtedness because U.S. GDP – America’s “national income” – is sufficiently high that we can easily bear the burden of this debt.

My purpose here isn’t to compare the size of Uncle Sam’s debts to that of America’s national income. Even if (contrary to fact) the pundit were correct that the U.S. government’s debt obligations are small relative to America’s national income, the pundit is incorrect to imply that America’s national income is a sum owned collectively by us and out of which we can repay Uncle Sam’s creditors.

Unlike the Jones’s household income which is owned and spent collectively by the Jones, America’s national income is not owned and spent collectively by Americans. Put differently, while it makes sense – both economically and legally – to regard the household income of the Jones as belonging collectively to the members of the Jones household, it makes no sense, economically or legally, to regard the national income of America as belonging collectively to citizens of the American nation.

Personal Pronouns

Personal pronouns are often sources of awful mischief when used to describe countries, societies, and other collectives. This reality is especially true for first-person plural pronouns, which in English are four: “we,” “us,” “our,” and “ours.”

An example of such a dangerous use of pronouns is “our trade balance.” A host of fallacies infect discussions of a country’s so-called “trade balance,” but one fallacy in particular is relevant here – namely, the fallacy that there is a collective trade balance. Such a thing exists only in words and not in reality.

Statisticians, of course, assemble figures for each country’s “balance of trade” (or “balance of payments”). But these figures are merely sums of the independent purchases, sales, and investments of each individual and firm located within the boundaries of each country.

My household, that of Don Boudreaux, has a trade balance. So too does the household of Mary Centanni, my sister. So too, does the household of my student Linan Peng. So too does the household of…. I can go on to name the household of all Americans, as well as name all American for–profit and non–profit organizations. The buying, selling, and investments of each of these units can then be summed to produce a figure called “America’s balance of trade.”

Yet this aggregate figure is not “our” trade balance in any economically or ethically meaningful sense. For example, any debts that I owe to a foreign creditor are not debts owed by my sister, by my student, or by any other American. Similarly for any debts owed to me by any foreigner.

Talk of “our” balance of trade is talk of something that doesn’t really exist; it’s merely a figment of the imagination made to appear real by an accounting convention that has the name “trade balance.” Nevertheless, this fictitious creature is daily demagogued by those seeking to clear the way for protectionist interventions.

I’m aware of no better warning of the dangers that lurk in the careless use of personal pronouns than that which was offered by Columbia University political scientist Parker T. Moon in his 1928 book, Imperialism and World Politics;

Language often obscures truth. More than is ordinarily realized, our eyes are blinded to the facts of international relations by tricks of the tongue.  When one uses the simple monosyllable “France” one thinks of France as a unit, an entity. When to avoid awkward repetition we use a personal pronoun in referring to a country – when for example we say “France sent her troops to conquer Tunis” – we impute not only unity but personality to the country. The very words conceal the facts and make international relations a glamorous drama in which personalized nations are the actors, and all too easily we forget the flesh–and–blood men and women who are the true actors. How different it would be if we had no such word as “France,” and had to say instead – thirty-eight million men, women and children of very diversified interests and beliefs, inhabiting 218,000 square miles of territory!  Then we should more accurately describe the Tunis expedition in some such way as this: “A few of these thirty-eight million persons sent thirty thousand others to conquer Tunis.” This way of putting the fact immediately suggests a question, or rather a series of questions. Who are the “few”? Why did they send the thirty thousand to Tunis? And why did these obey?

Essential questions indeed. Yet we will ask such essential questions only if we remain vigilantly aware of the dangers of being misled by loaded words and phrases.


About the Author

Donald J. Boudreaux is a senior fellow with American Institute for Economic Research and with the F.A. Hayek Program for Advanced Study in Philosophy, Politics, and Economics at the Mercatus Center at George Mason University; a Mercatus Center Board Member; and a professor of economics and former economics-department chair at George Mason University. Boudreaux earned a PhD in economics from Auburn University and a law degree from the University of Virginia.

Guillaume Faye on the Future of European Identity

Guillaume Faye, who was very influential upon the identitarian movement, passed away last week on March 7, 2019. He was born in 1949 and received a PhD in Political Science from the Institut d’etudes politiques de Paris, afterward becoming one of the principal organisers of the French New Right organisation GRECE (Groupement de recherche et d’etudes pour la civilisation europeenne) during the 1970s and 1980s.

At the same time, Faye cultivated his career as a journalist, particularly in the news magazines Figaro and Paris-Match. In 1986, he left GRECE after he came to disagree with the direction of the group, which he felt was becoming overly academic and less engaged with the actual problems confronting Europe. Primarily, he rejected the communitarian and pro-Third World ideology propagated by his former GRECE colleagues.

The following are excerpts of a conversation that took place in Paris in July 2018 between Faye and Grégoire Canlorbe, relating to the European identity.


Grégoire Canlorbe: In the face of the colonization of European soil by foreign races, you suggest that, instead of a return to the 19th century’s centralized nation-states, which sank into cosmopolitanism, we should promote the establishment of an imperial and ethnically homogenous Europe. Could you explain your argument?

Guillaume Faye: It cannot be denied that nationalist and xenophobic ideologies, which emerged in the 19th century, bear a heavy responsibility for the two World Wars and the historic deterioration of Europe. Everywhere, from France to Poland, from Germany to Britain, and from Russia to the Balkans, they have continued to be the driving force behind inter-European clashes—and therefore behind Europe’s global weakening in the face of African and Asian peoples who are gradually colonizing European soil, while Islam strives to conquer the West.

On the other hand, Europe would provide an ideal frame in which to constitute an empire, for it would include all Europeans, in their diversity and their unity. To this end, rooting oneself in a regional or national identity must reflect a stronger sense of European belonging and not a return to the 19th century’s nationalism. It is encouraging to see that when designing their future independence, several Corsican, Breton, Flemish, and Lombard separatists have understood that their future freedom can only be achieved in a federal and imperial context.

One of the first to have brewed the disastrous intra-European nationalism in the late 18th century was the Prussian linguist Johann Gottfried Herder, who rebelled against the use of French as practiced by the European elites and who invented the doubtful concept of Sprache und Boden (“Language and soil”), whereby each “nation” was to speak only “its” language. This German linguistic nationalism was the virus that poisoned the whole of Europe, along of course with French Jacobin cosmopolitanism and ultramarine British imperialism.

The idea that each nation-state should have its exclusive language caught on in the 19th century, when European nation-states were formed based on the model of the French Revolution. This prompted the French Republic to prohibit the use of local languages in both its colonies and in its provinces, to the sole benefit of the French language. In opposition to the very idea of an empire in which identities overlap unevenly, governments began to view Europe as a juxtaposition of mechanically compartmentalized nations whose homogeneous languages and cultures did not extend beyond their borders.

Every nation-state began to reconstruct its past and history in a mythological manner. However universalist and cosmopolitan it may be, France invented its own Celtic past—a Gaulish and anti-German one—claiming enlightenment and a mental finesse in contrast to the alleged tribal barbarism of the peoples beyond the Rhine. Under successive regimes, the German government strived to “deromanise” itself and used every means available to construct a German mythology composed of an incredibly confusing mixture of Medieval Holy Roman Empire elements and Nordic legends. Suddenly, the Italian state declared itself heir to the Caesars. The Belgian state invented all sorts of ridiculous legitimacies to suit its needs. And so forth.

It is French nationalism that caused the ultimate disaster from 1914 to 1918, that is, the arrival of colonial troops from Africa and Asia—supported by the US military—to fight the fellow Europeans against which France was engaged. Europe’s ethnic solidarity was destroyed. Francis I [or France] had already committed the same blunder when he allied himself with the Ottoman Suleiman the Magnificent against Austria.

The French colonial dream formulated in the 1930s, that of a France comprising 100 million inhabitants and abandoning its European anthropological composition by necessity—a France that would defeat Germany—represents another factor that contributed to the weakening of the European identity. Today, we are paying a heavy price for the colonialist and “civilizing” French doctrine of the 19th century, which aimed in a most stupid fashion at strengthening French nationalism against European neighbors, while deepening ties with nations overseas.

Unlike with the centralizing model of the 19th century’s nation-state, the imperial model involves an overlapping of various communities that is achieved in a vivid (and not mechanically administrative) fashion. The communities may be granted freedoms and abide by particular laws under the leadership of a strong but decentralized state. This conception aims to defend the ethnic identity of European peoples—both against the current colonization of Europe at the hands of the Third World, and against the centralism of nation-states that eradicates all particularisms, and which proclaims a multiracial nationality negating European identity.

This vision is a plural one, yet remains ethnically rooted. The empire is not a “nation-state,” both cosmopolitan and centralized, but an ensemble of free nations ethnically, culturally, and historically related, federated in a great continental empire. In this sense, the empire is a decentralized federation, equipped with a strong central power yet restricted to certain specific domains and regulated according to principles of subsidiarity: as such, this power addresses the domains of foreign policy, border control, general economic and ecological rules, etc.

The imperial principle is not one of homogenization; its various components are autonomous and can be organized in different ways, according to their own internal policies (regarding justice, institutions, fiscal autonomy, education, language, culture, etc.). The empire maintains the ensemble’s unity and the general civilizational project—but it’s not to be seen as a fluid, confederated association, totally heterogeneous, open to the entire world. A discipline of the whole is necessary, to imbue it with a firm, central, clear direction. In this sense, the present European Union, this will-less administrative aggregate, is far from representing the European imperial idea.

The national (or regional) components of the empire would be imbued with a “probationary freedom” that accepts the “grand policy” of the ensemble and the sovereignty of its central power, but this power, in exchange, would concede their specific identities, accepting that each nation or region, in conserving its freedom, has the right to leave the Federation at any moment. To realize a future “Eurosiberian Empire,” including Russia, Europeans will have to decide if the federation is going to be based on the nation-state or the historic region. But whatever their response, the idea of imperial Federation seems, in the end, the sole way by which Europe will be saved.

Grégoire Canlorbe: In Western Europe and North America, the development of capitalism and democratic institutions—first and foremost universal suffrage—has been accompanied by the emergence of what Vilfredo Pareto called the humanitarian-democratic religion. In other words, political beliefs about the form of government, and the material beliefs about how one should make a living have undergone an evolution that have gone along with that of cosmological beliefs about how we should live.

Vilfredo Pareto summed up the humanitarian-democratic religion: a “morbid pity” that bears the name of humanitarianism; disdain for honest workers (in the broad sense), subversion of justice for the benefit of murderers, thieves, and parasites, a cult of redistribution and assistantship that culminates in socialism; and finally, the tolerance and approval of the “mores of bad women” that bears the name of hard feminism.

However, the fate of the pioneer democracies of the West doesn’t look universal: it seems to be possible to have democracy (on a strictly political level) without the humanitarian-democratic religion. Indeed, Russia, but also Eastern-Europeans countries, Thailand, India, or Israel, are not affected by the secularization that has allowed democracy to take the place of religion, to become a new religion. They have retained their traditional cosmological beliefs while evolving in their political and material beliefs, that is to say, in the directions of their democracy and capitalism.

How do you explain these divergent trajectories?

Guillaume Faye: These three symptoms all boil down to a process of devirilization—by which I mean the decline of the values of courage and virility for the sake of feminist, xenophile, homophile, and humanitarian values. The dominant Western ideology, which Vilfredo Pareto called the humanitarian-democratic religion, fosters this devirilization of Europeans, though it doesn’t touch the alien colonizers. Homophilia, like the feminist fashion of false liberation, the ideological rejection of large families for the sake of the unstable nuclear couple, the declining birth rate, the preference of photographers for the African and the Arab, the constant justification of miscegenation, the denigration of warrior values, hatred of every powerful, forceful form of aesthetics, as well as the prevailing lack of courage, are some of the present characteristics of this devirilization.

Confronted by Islam’s conquering virility, the European feels morally disarmed and confused. The prevailing conception of the world—whether it comes from the legislature, public education, the Church, or the media—is deployed to stigmatize every notion of virility, which is associated with “fascist brutality.” Devirilization has become a sign of civilization, of refined mores, the paradoxical discourse of a society, half of which is sinking into violence and primitivism. Devirilization is linked to narcissistic individualism and the loss of communal identity, which paralyzes all reaction to the assaults of immigrant colonizers and the forces of collaboration. This also explains the feeble repression of immigrant delinquency, the absence of European ethnic solidarity, and the pathological “fears” haunting Europeans.

As far as I am concerned, Russia is an authentically democratic country—in any case, far more democratic than France, where the people are solicited to express their views on less than significant matters, but never on issues such as family reunification or the number of immigrants accepted in a given year. A few months ago, President Putin was re-elected with more than 70 percent of votes, which was not the case for Emmanuel Macron in the first round of the 2017 presidential election. As for knowing how Russia—which I believe to be far more democratic than any Western European country—has managed to adopt democracy on a strictly political level, while escaping the “humanitarian-democratic religion,” there is, first of all, the fact that Soviet communism stood in the way of the virus of the French revolution. It proved a bulwark against the cosmopolitan, humanitarian, and feminist conceptions stemming from 1789.

Another factor to be considered is the religious tradition of Russia. To some extent, Russia and East European countries have escaped from the influence of the moral masochism of Christianity, due to the schism between the Catholic Church and the Oriental Church, which lead the latter to reject the devirilizing and cosmopolitan discourse of the former. Ultimately, the humanitarian-democratic religion of 1789 is only a culmination of the Catholic Church’s discourse. This is how countries whose religious tradition differs from Catholicism—including Orthodox-Slavic Russia, but also Buddhist Thailand for instance—have been able to democratize themselves politically speaking, without the humanitarian-democratic virus contaminating what you call their “cosmological beliefs.”

Grégoire Canlorbe: The class struggle between labor and capital was described by Vilfredo Pareto, and above all Piero Gobetti, as an internal spring of capitalism: an infallible instrument of the recomposition of industrial elites. How do you judge this idea?

Guillaume Faye: In fact, the preeminent form of the class struggle today is no more the struggle between capitalists and proletarians, but rather one opposing both migrants and the urban middle class bourgeoisie—whose eminent representative is Macron—to the native ordinary people. The struggle between labor and capital—in the sense of a reshaping of bourgeoisie with elements from the proletarian class—has certainly been a motor of capitalism, but this is only a particular case of the driving role played by the class struggle in any society or economic system. The circulation of elites was constant in the history of Romans.

On the condition that it takes place properly, and that it happens within the same race, a same biological people, the class struggle is something extremely positive. When the class struggle ceases, there occurs a general anesthesia: everyone starts behaving as a public employee, and indulging in laziness instead of searching to earn money or rise socially. This mentality has sadly become that of Frenchmen, who do not want, out of laziness, to make a lot of money, and are nonetheless jealous of their neighbor if he earns more than they do. This is egalitarianism in all its splendor—having the minimum for living and doing as little as possible, going on strike as often as possible . . . .

Grégoire Canlorbe: Is there something you would like to add?

Guillaume Faye: With its impending clashes between large ethnic blocs, the 21st century will, in actuality, be possibly more conflict-ridden and violent than the 20th century—because of, not despite, globalization! On an overpopulated planet, prone to rising perils, it’s not the end of history leading to a liberal, democratic world state that we see coming, but an intensification of history, as the competition between peoples responding to the imperatives of selection and the struggle for life becomes ever more desperate.

Read the conversation in full


About the Author

American Renaissance believes race is an important aspect of individual and group identity. Of all the fault lines that divide society—language, religion, class, ideology—it is the most prominent and divisive. Race and racial conflict are at the heart of some of the most serious challenges the Western World faces in the 21st century.

The Destruction of Ivory Poaching and the Illegal Wildlife Trade: Part 2

According to the group People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, fish have feelings too. Whenever my sons go fishing they always tell me, “Dad it doesn’t hurt a fish to get hooked.” Well I watch and I see and I believe it’s painful for the fish.
— Donald Trump

Targeted Species

African Bush (Savannah) and African Forest Elephants

Both species of African elephant present high-value targets for poachers in all regions of sub-Saharan Africa, including the rare “desert elephants” of Mali.  

Documenting the long-term consequences of social disruption caused by poaching on the African elephant is crucial to the conservation and management of this species. Mortality is concentrated among the largest adults with the biggest tusks but old matriarchs (the oldest adult females that provide the social glue in elephant herds) are particularly vulnerable. Their tusks are large and their groups easier to find than solitary adult males. Many family groups lose their matriarchs, compromising their social, competitive and physiological functioning. Young offspring often perish with their mothers, causing a disrupted age structure, and older offspring are orphaned to range solitarily or in atypical groups of unrelated females.

African Rhinoceroses

Both the white rhinoceros and the much smaller black rhinoceros are targeted for their horns.

Asian Elephants

Although only male Asian elephants typically have tusks, elephant populations throughout the continent are being thinned by sustained poaching of the last several decades and habitat loss. An imbalance in the number of males, who are killed for their tusks, and females is disrupting the ability for healthy females to find mates and therefore the birthrate is dropping.

Asian Rhinoceroses

All three Asian rhinos are hunted for their horns. These are the greater one-horned rhinoceros (Indian rhinoceros), Javan rhinoceros, and Sumatran rhinoceros.

Bears

In Asia, several species of bears, with the exception of the giant panda, are illegally hunted for their paws. Some bears, particularly the Asian Black Bears, Moon/Sun Bears are also illegally caught and farmed for their bile which is used by some practitioners of traditional Asian folk medicine.

Cheetahs

Different from other big cats, cheetahs suffer from both poaching from their skins as well as live capture for sale as exotic pets, particularly in the Middle East.

Leopards

Throughout Africa and Asia, the skins of leopards are used by rural communities participating in a traditional lifestyle as well as wealthy individuals purchasing the skins as a fashion accessory or simply to show off the skin in their home.

Otters

Otter skins have been an integral part of the legal fur trade for centuries. However, over-hunting and illegal hunting largely for Asian fur markets again threatens several species of otter.

Pangolins

One of the most poorly known and understood groups of mammals, the eight species of pangolin across Africa and Asia are being poached in massive numbers to supply Asian practitioners of folk medicine and those who seek a culinary delicacy.

Sea Turtles

The world’s seven distinct species of sea turtles are vital to the health of beach and shoreline environments, but they are dramatically impacted by careless trawling, beach destruction, and illegal harvesting of their eggs.

Tigers

Asian nations have turned to large-scale captive breeding techniques to supply their commercial farming industry. Today, there are more tigers in captivity in China than in the wild. 

Statistics

Few countries provide statistics on the number of poachers arrested or killed, wildlife illegally killed, or the number of rangers and other personnel killed in the line of duty. The following information summarizes information from a variety of statistics available from reliable sources of hard data based on peer-reviewed scientific studies.

Ivory poaching and the resulting trafficking is a widespread issue throughout all of Africa, but many nations are securing what populations they have left to safeguard the ecological heritage of their country as well as to retain a strong tourism industry. Many of these nations depend on their natural heritage to bring in tourists who greatly stimulate the economy.

Sean Willmore, president of the International Ranger Federation and founder of the Thin Green Line Foundation, estimates that about 2 rangers are killed each week, but that the number could be higher. This number signifies individuals employed as anti-poaching rangers by profession, not military personnel or other individuals that might take part in ground or air operations. Few countries publish crime statistics relating to the number of poachers arrested due to varying types of poaching, different penalties for different types of poaching, and potentially long trial processes.

Rhino Poaching Statistics

Hundreds of thousands of rhinoceros populated Africa and Asia at the beginning of the twentieth century even after centuries of demand for rhino horn from the Middle East, India, China, and eventually the West. Today, illegal hunting accounts for the vast majority of rhinoceros deaths and poaching throughout the Asian and African continents is largely spurred by demand from wealthy individuals in Asian nations eager to show off their financial success. Antique and gray market products of ambiguous age still thrive around the world as the price of rhino horn increases to more than USD $60,000 per kilogram ($1,700 per ounce).

The most recent thorough and comprehensive studies and census estimates suggest that there are estimated to be roughly 20,700 southern white rhino and 4,885 black rhinoceros in Africa, including their subspecies, but as of 2018 the actual number is likely much fewer. South Africa’s Kruger National Park is home to 7,000-8,300 rhino as of 2016. The northern white rhino subspecies has been reduced to just two living in East Africa. The three species of rhino in Asia are also threatened by the demand for rhino horn as a symbol of wealth or to be used as part of traditional oriental medicines. As of the end of 2017 there are an estimated 3,333 greater one-horned rhino (Indian rhino), and at least 67 of the Javan species, and as few as 30 rhinos of the Sumatran species left in the wild.

Africa’s white rhino species is the largest of any living rhinoceros species, weighing up to 3,600 kilograms (7,920 pounds), and is the continent’s third-largest species after the African bush elephant and African forest elephant. The black rhino, which is gray, can weigh up to 1,400 kg (3,100 pounds). The lifespan of a wild rhinoceros is unknown but expected to be 35-50 years for any species.

 

Elephant Poaching Statistics

African elephants are split into two distinct species: the African bush elephant, the most prevalent species, and the smaller African forest elephant. The bush elephant is the world’s largest living species of land animal. In both African elephant species, the males and females have tusks; these are modified incisors that can grow to weigh dozens of kilograms and are used for a variety of essential purposes in an elephant’s daily life. These tusks are a significant source of ivory which is used in ivory ornaments and jewelry, however mammoth tusks are also being excavated and their ivory traded legally.

From 2003-2014, with the exception of 2005, CITES reports have shown that estimated levels of illegal elephant killings in Central Africa have been occurring at unsustainable levels relative to natural population growth. This means that elephants in this region are dying faster than they are able to reproduce. The same report indicates West Africa is also thought to be suffering from unsustainable levels of elephant poaching from 2007-2009 and 2011-2014.

As a means of mitigating localized population losses a number of programs have arisen to protect elephants, reduce human-elephant conflict where elephants regularly come into contact with farms, and stop poaching. For decades there have also been elephant relocation programs, also known as translocation projects, which move elephants from areas of high-population or over-population to habitats that can sustain and benefit from their reintroduction. African bush elephant populations were estimated by the Great Elephant Census, which concluded in August 2016, at roughly 350,000 and in a separate census of African forest elephants an estimated 18,000-36,500 individuals in select protected parks.

 

Leopard Poaching Statistics

Leopards are a species of big cat that is native throughout most of sub-Saharan Africa, from the bushvelds of South Africa to the jungles of the Congo, and formerly resided in parts of North Africa. The leopard can also be found throughout Southeast Asia, India, and select regions of the Middle East, however it is increasingly rare in the Arabian Peninsula and highlands of Iraq and Iran.

Leopards are solitary animals that will hunt by using a combination of stealthy ambushes and immense strength to catch prey as much as five times its own size. Its intricate spots and spot groupings on its body give it impeccable camouflage and the use of clever tactics has earned the leopard its reputation as the “prince of stealth.” This contrasts sharply with the cheetah which openly stalks its prey and uses a burst of incredible speed to catch it.

The spot groupings on the leopard, called rosettes, are also what make its skin a highly sought after status symbol throughout many traditional and modern cultures of Asia. In the early 2000s a quality leopard skin would sell for USD $850 in Lhasa, the capital of Tibet.

 

Tiger Poaching Statistics

India and many Asian nations have a relationship with the tiger going back hundreds, perhaps thousands, of years. However recent interest in traditional folk medicines, often referred to as Traditional Chinese Medicine, from China and Southeast Asia has kept tiger poaching profitable in recent decades. Many cultures in Asia have a long history of believing the tiger has supernatural or restorative powers, making the animals valued for their essentially all of their parts.

Tiger skins have a strong value to traditional Buddhist monasteries but also to contemporary Asian celebrities who have worn the skins as provocative status symbols. According to Walker’s Mammals of the World a tiger skin could sell for approximately USD $4,250 in 1977, about USD $16,880 in 2015 dollars. A report by the Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA) from 2004 indicated that tiger skins were being sold for up to USD $10,000 in Tibet primarily to Chinese, Taiwanese, and European tourists. Teeth and claws also have a special importance to buyers as a status symbol. Tiger bones are also highly sought after for use in medicines and health tonics and in the past few years tiger bone wine has become a curiosity, despite being illegal. In Traditional Chinese Medicine a tiger’s penis is believed to be a natural enhancer of male virility and in 2006 a dish sold for USD $5,700 in Beijing (about USD $6,800 in 2015).

Although China has few wild tigers of its own, a report by TRAFFIC estimates the country keeps thousands of tigers in captivity, meanwhile restaurants in China claim to receive meat and parts from farms and breeding centers. This data is difficult to reflect in official statistics as China, Korea, and other nations farming animals for their parts are reticent to admit to the source of tiger meat and parts within the country, whether from captivity or from external sources. In spite of China’s ban of the tiger parts trade there are still incidents of tiger parts being sold to consumers.

There are a total of 13 countries that still have wild populations of tigers. While China used to have among the most, the country is now home to very few wild tigers and potentially thousands held in captivity for amusement or farming. Today India is thought to have among the largest wild tiger populations, however this accounts for only the Bengal subspecies. Bangladesh, Bhutan, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, Nepal, Russia, Thailand and Vietnam also have wild tiger populations. In February 2015 these “Tiger Nations” agreed to create an intelligence-sharing network to fight poaching and trafficking.

 

Bear Poaching Statistics

Although most species of bear are not endangered every species is given the highest level of protection under CITES Appendix I, with the exception of a few brown bear populations. Illegal hunting or trade in these species’ parts is prohibited at an international level and many countries with domestic bear populations also impose protections and import or export restrictions.

Several species of bears in Asia and North America are subject to illegal hunting. The bears may be killed for their claws, skin or other trophies; for their meat, particularly their paws; or for specific organs used in traditional Chinese medicine. In Asia live bears are illegally caught and sold to consumers as pets or to bear bile farms which harvest a small amount of liquid from the gallbladder that purportedly has medicinal effects. While many Chinese bear farms claim that they have breeding programs to create a fresh supply of bears there is little evidence of this being true and some farms have admitted to relying on taking bears from the wild in order to meet consumer demand. 

Environmental Crimes and Arrests Statistics

Many poaching incidents do not lead to arrests and there are several countries with lax penalties for illegally hunted protected wildlife species. As of 2015, at least 40 member countries of the CITES had a maximum penalty of only a cash fine, while only 34 countries reported having a maximum penalty of jail time of more than four years. Only 56 countries had a maximum penalty of four or fewer years and 51 countries went unreported. Failure to impose stiff penalties for detrimental wildlife crimes may fail to discourage many honest people from becoming wildlife or fish poachers and may also be supporting existing corruption and bribery of law enforcement and judges overseeing these cases. Even with these maximum penalties some judges are routinely giving lighter sentences and in numerous cases known poachers are regularly set free and their firearms immediately returned with the help of bribes or “fees” paid to court or prison officials.

Kenya

Kenya’s port of Mombasa is the major transit route for the ferrying of illegal ivory from the East and Central Africa region. Ivory is often chopped into small pieces, polished and neatly cut into small cubes and circles to conceal the tusk shape during the scanning process. The ivory chips are then packed in sacks and hidden inside a container which is then declared as normal export goods. Kenya's President Uhuru Kenyatta said he will lead calls for a "total ban on the trade of elephant ivory" at the CITES (Convention on International Trade on Endangered Species) conference in South Africa in September 2016.

The Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS), established in 1990, routinely publishes data on arrests made by their growing ranks. They operate in many of the national parks and national reserves throughout Kenya and help to coordinate cross-border information sharing and operations with Tanzanian wildlife agencies as well as other anti-poaching groups. In 2013 the efforts of KWS yielded 1,549 total arrests and prosecutions for environmental crimes and a recovery of 10,106 kilograms (22,280 pounds) of bushmeat and 23,145 kg (51,025 pounds) of ivory.

In 2013 arrests related to environmental crimes were down significantly compared to 2011, however ivory recovery was up significantly. This may be due to ivory recovery statistics reflecting efforts from outside Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS) jurisdiction or through coordination with other anti-trafficking task forces.

Nepal

After a significant deterioration of its environment, as well as wildlife loss due to poaching, Nepal has recently taken strong measures to reverse the causes and created community education programs as well as conservation programs for a host of wildlife species including Bengal tiger, leopard, snow leopard, greater one-horned rhino (Indian rhino). The majority of the country’s roughly 407 rhinoceros reside within Chitwan National Park where protected zones and a program to better distribute the rhino across protected areas has yielded positive results.

In 2007 legislation and law enforcement efforts had culminated in more than 100 successful prosecutions relating to wildlife crimes, each with a fine of NRs 100,000 (USD $1,500 in 2007) and/or a jail sentence of up to 15 years.

South Africa

South Africa has the largest populations of rhinoceros of any African nation. For a number of reasons, the famous Kruger National Park, an expansive 19,633 square kilometers (7,580 sq. mi), is the largest target in southern Africa. South Africa’s Department of Environmental Affairs as well as the South African National Parks (SAN Parks) typically releases quarterly data on both rhinoceros poaching statistics and arrests of suspected poachers. SAN Parks does not release statistics on anti-poaching rangers and military injured or killed in the line of duty.

In a 2014 year-end report SAN Parks reports that 1,020 rhinoceros have been killed by poachers and 344 suspected poachers neutralized. More recent data reported by the South African Department Environmental Affairs indicates 1,215 rhinos were poached in 2014 and 386 poachers, couriers, and syndicate members have been arrested or killed. In the 2015 annual report Minister of the Environment Edna Molewa reports that throughout calendar year 2015 there were 317 suspected poachers arrested, a 23% increase over 2014 when 258 individuals were arrested. This conflicts with their own reports that at least 344 people were arrested or neutralized during 2014 (other sources suggest 386 arrests, as shown below), suggesting that perhaps as many as 128 suspected poachers and traffickers were killed or arrested in other jurisdictions that year.

Data reported by SAN Parks or the South African Department of Environment frequently reports number of “arrests” related to poaching. However, an interview from August 2014 with Major-General Johan Jooste suggests that the number of arrests reported is actually the number of people arrested or killed. Therefore, the below statistics have been amended to reflect the ambiguity of the term “neutralized” to describe these poachers. Mozambique’s former president Joaquim Chissano, who served from 1986 to 2005, claims that from 2010 through 2014 nearly 500 Mozambicans were killed in Kruger National Park by South African rangers and law enforcement.

The latest data summarizing the year 2016 shows that 680 individuals were arrested or killed as a result of law enforcement actions spanning multiple agencies and every region of South Africa. The figure is a substantial increase from the number neutralized in previous years, with Kruger National Park reflecting a more than 100 percent increase despite losing 1,054 rhino, only a 121 decrease (10.29 percent) from 2015. It is crucial to note that the Department of Environmental Affairs is now reporting figures for Kruger National Park as “both within and outside the Kruger National Park” which obfuscates the surrounding provinces which previously had been reported separately.

Tanzania

Like other East African nations, Tanganyika and Zanzibar (later unified as Tanzania) are known to have played a major role in the well-documented East African ivory trade which for nearly a century, and likely the better part of two centuries, provided the world with ivory. Since the democratization and stabilization of East Africa after decolonization, Tanzania and especially Kenya, have been viewed as the leaders in wildlife conservation, especially in regards to elephants.

In 2014 the Tanzania’s National and Transnational Serious Crimes Investigation Unit (NTSCIU) was formed with part of its duty to investigate and arrest major wildlife traffickers acting within the country. Since the special unit’s creation they have made hundreds of arrests, participated in several high-profile operations including Operation “SpiderNet,” as well as made the arrests of two major wildlife traffickers: Yang Feng Lan, a Chinese national known as “Ivory Queen,” and Boniface Matthew Mariango, known to Tanzanian law enforcement as “Shetani” or “Devil.”

In the one-year period from June 2016 to June 2017 the Tanzanian Ministry of Natural Resources and Tourism announced that 3,185 people were arrested in relation to poaching wildlife or timber. However, the number of those arrested that were actually charged with a crime was said to be at least 1,500. During this time 270 firearms and 1,058 rounds of ammunition were confiscated. This represents a lower ratio of firearms expected to be carried by a group of poachers, which is one for every three people, however some types of poachers use of bows and poison arrows in Kenya and Tanzania and this may account for the discrepancy.

Zimbabwe

Greatly effected by years of government-sponsored poaching, trafficking by foreign diplomats, and lax enforcement of anti-poaching laws, Zimbabwe remains a region with great political and economic strife that fails to effectively utilize or protect its dwindling wildlife populations and natural resources. It also suffers from significant corruption and poverty, with an estimated 84 percent of its citizens unemployed while official unemployment figures vary from 60-90 percent.

In October of 2015 the Zimbabwean government reported that 876 Zimbabwean nationals had been arrested that year, as were 44 foreigners, for poaching. These figures included the arrest of five game rangers caught poisoning elephants as well as all types of subsistence, commercial, and criminal poachers. At least 22 suspected poachers, 6 of them foreigners, were killed. Some of these individuals were killed during shootouts with rangers working for the Zimbabwe Parks and Wildlife Management Authority. The number of arrests leading to prosecution and ultimately conviction is unknown and the reliability of Zimbabwe’s official statistics is considered to be low. Their statistics may be inflated or whitewashed.

 

The Virtue of Nations and Our Identities

The West is engaged in a culture war, internally and externally positioned against itself. In America, post-modernist cultural Marxist activists are attempting to deconstruct and disintegrate society and individuals upon the premise of identity politics. In Europe, two world wars and a genocide have generated decades of collective guilt which has morphed into a flagellation of self-hatred. Across the West, progressives are on a campaign to delegitimize, censor, and silence voices that do not align entirely and completely with their own. Our societies are weakening from the constant apologeticism of political correctness and a lack of open and respectful discourse, particularly in the universities meant to wise up the upcoming generation of adults with critical thought and reasoning.

The phrase “all politics is local” was coined in 1932 by Byron Price, the Associated Press bureau chief for Washington, and was first used by American House of Representatives Tip O’Neill in 1935 when he entered politics. It’s a significant observation because it recognizes the fundamental truth of our societies that we are all governed by the inflexible and unchangeable fact of human nature. Humans are imperfect, nature is imperfect, and therefore life is and always be imperfect and no utopian ideal will ever change this immutability.

There are certain anthropological facts about humans. Biologically, we inherit our genetics, personalities, and mannerisms from our parents and by extension our relatives. As author and artist Layne Redmond wrote, “Before we were conceived, we existed in part as an egg in our mother's ovary. All the eggs a woman will ever carry form in her ovaries while she is a four-month-old fetus in the womb of her mother. This means our cellular life as an egg begins in the womb of our grandmother. Each of us spent five months in our grandmother's womb and she in turn formed within the womb of her grandmother. We vibrate to the rhythms of our mother's blood before she herself is born. And this pulse is the thread of blood that runs all the way back through the grandmothers to the first mother.” Socially, the human brain is only capable of remembering and maintaining stable social relationships with about 150 people. Spiritually, humans are wired for religion, first evidenced by pagan theology, which is integral to our sense of meaning and understanding of our lives and from there our existence and identities.

Our identities therefore mean that while we are individual human beings, we are inextricably connected to our immediate families, our clans of ancestral relatives, and the larger tribe or nation of connected families and clans. Our cultural inheritance includes the history, religion, language, customs and so on of these generational social networks. Life is about the balance between the individual and the collective. Powerful bonds of mutual loyalty motivated by shared concern and the internal cohesiveness are necessary to strengthen a unique cultural inheritance and pass it on for the next generation. This is the inherent strength and freedom of the family, clan, and tribe that the ideologies of communism and socialism seek to dismantle, to redirect our loyalty multilaterally from blood upward to the hollow replacement of political ego as the new sacred.

With the tight social cohesion of human networks as a necessary precondition for survival, it is therefore confounding why the West is experiencing such widespread hostility toward something so inherent about humanity as identity and nationhood. Today, western and European societies face existential threat from the destructive consequences that present-day political discourse has wrought. It’s a phenomenon only European-founded nations are experiencing, whereas all other ethnicities remain politically correct in the self-preservation of their cultures. The progressive’s self-inflicted murder of western, European societies is entirely irrational and counter-instinctive.

As there are two well known political perspectives, generally described as conservative and liberal, there are also a nationalist worldview and a globalist worldview. At first glance, it may seem counter-intuitive against the mainstream narrative, but the nationalist view aligns with the reality of human nature while the globalist view holds an ideal and theories regarding human nature. Predictably, the intrinsic opposition of these perspectives has manifested into conflict. Conservatism is often more associated with nationalism though most established conservative political parties have become as globalist as the liberals.

Either one believes in an order of independent national states or an international order under an imperial state. For centuries, the politics of the West have been characterized by the struggle between these two antithetical visions of world order, as author Yoram Hazony outlines in his book, The Virtue of Nationalism: “an order of free and independent nations, each pursuing the political good in accordance with its own traditions and understanding; and an order of peoples united under a single regime of law, promulgated and maintained by a single, supranational authority.

 

Good Fences Make Good Neighbours

Western and European societies are founded on Judeo-Christian principles and throughout the Bible are examples of political aspirations determined by free and unified nations living in justice and peace, self-governed by the kings and priests drawn from the nation itself, thought to be better in touch with their “brothers” than an external ruler. Though western societies may be secular in the sense of separation of church and state or an outright declaration of secularism, the fact remains that the West and our societies and political and legal systems are founded upon a biblical heritage.

Humans are social beings who cannot survive in isolation; everyone is loyal to people or a tribe beyond themselves. As another saying goes, blood is thicker than water. Nations, therefore, are founded upon ethnicity and culture. The strongest institutions of human collectiveness are based upon mutual loyalty, where an individual identifies with the well-being and concerns of others in the tribe, which explains why outsiders can join and become adopted into a new tribe. Outsiders (immigrants) can and do join another tribe whereas they are either already predisposed by their own culture to adopt the new one or remain a respectful minority within the strong majority culture. Ultimately, what bonds people most closely, regardless of blood, is enduring hardship and success together. It is not simply a case of altruism, but of a shared experience whereby the experience of another is also the experience of themselves.

Therefore, the only political theory proven accurate in reality is one that respects and understands these elements of human nature and organization. Political philosopher John Stuart Mill said that it is “in general a necessary condition of free institutions that the boundaries of government should coincide in the main with those of nationalities.” American political scientist Robert Putman discovered in his study of diversity that the more diverse a group becomes, the more this destroys mutual trust for the rule of law and social solidarity. He also found that in ethnically diverse areas, people are increasingly lonelier and losing trust in democracy. National populations grow and decline relative to the degree of internal cohesion.

Political empirical philosopher John Stuart Mill observed that Europe’s progress was attributed to its “plurality of paths” that allowed for the success of its political order: “What has made the European family of nations an improving, instead of a stationary, portion of mankind? Not of any superior excellence in them – which, when it exists, exists in effect, not the cause – but their remarkable diversity of culture. Individuals, classes, nations, have been extremely unlike one another. They have struck out a great variety of paths, each leading to something valuable. And although at every period they have been intolerant of one another, and each would have thought it an excellent thing if all the rest could have been compelled to travel his road … each has in time endured to receive the good which the others have offered. Europe is … wholly indebted to this plurality of paths.”

Hazony writes that while nationalism has been viewed over the last century as producing less cohesive and stable and more oppressive nations than a civic state, the opposite is actually true: “The overwhelming dominance of a single, cohesive nationality, bound together by indissoluble bonds of mutual loyalty, is in fact the only basis for domestic peace within a free state. By this I do not mean that the entire population must be drawn from a single nationality, for no such thing exists anywhere on earth. Moreover, there is no evidence that such a complete homogeneity is necessary for cohesion, stability, and success of the state. Rather, what is needed for the establishment of a stable and free state is a majority nation whose cultural dominance is plain and unquestioned, and against which resistance appears to be futile. Such a majority nation is strong enough not to fear challenges from national minorities, and so is able to grant them rights and liberties without damaging the internal integrity of the state… the overwhelming dominance of a single majority nation has produced states that are dramatically more stable, prosperous, and tolerant than neighboring states that have not been constituted as national states.”

Hazony remarks further that to “maintain its independence, a national state must have not only internal cohesion but also military and economic strength and a defensible territory, so that it is not annexed by hostile foreign powers at the first opportunity, or overrun by criminal or terrorist organizations. Where these conditions are lacking, there will be no independent state. A nation or tribe that does not have these things can only hope to live in peace by seeking an alliance with a powerful neighbor, which is to say, as a protectorate.” He essentially describes the non-independent structure of the European Union with NATO ally the United States as protectorate. The growing wave of western populism is therefore understandable from this perspective and explains why Britons voted for Brexit and why Americans voted for President Donald Trump.

 

The Empire Strikes Back

Though many people, particularly adherents to the liberal school of thought, believe that human value and therefore human rights are inherent as a universal truth, history to the present day point out that this is not true. If human rights were universally assumed to be inherent and treated as such, we wouldn’t see countless examples of people, societies, and civilizations that have never afforded the majority of its citizens these ‘human rights’.

The origins of human rights as rooted in freedom is a protestant construction, whereby rights are given and protected by the state. National independence and self-determination are the foundations of a democracy, allowing for the establishment of public norms, rule of law, an economy, and determining security and defense. A western nation’s legitimacy with its people is based upon a political tradition of limited executive power, individual liberties, public religion rooted in Judeo-Christian values, and historical empiricism.

The imperialist’s vision is one of a world in which liberal principles are codified as universal law and imposed on nations, by force if necessary, to bring peace and prosperity for all of humanity. It is a dogmatic and utopian viewpoint. Empires have dominated much of history and always ultimately proven to be a failure, as witnessed under the Holy Roman Empire, the Catholic Church, Napoleon, colonialism, Austria-Hungary, Yugoslavia, the Ottoman Turks, Communism, Nazism, and the European Union (to name a few) whereas the liberal empire aims to replace the protestant order based upon independent national states. Global empires are unrealistic. Today, they propose the economic and security advantages of a unified legal regime for the whole world; it is unimaginable that Russia, China, or Iran would sign on for that. Liberal ideals are not enough to create a state nor a society in reality, let alone an empire’s collection of diverse peoples who will automatically coexist peacefully. All politics is local, meaning there are only ever local solutions based on the culture of a local issue. International law is ultimately unenforceable in terms of binding determinations because in practice, a nation’s leaders will ultimately side with ‘their own’ rather than an arbitrary set of rules applied by ‘outsiders’. Peace among nations will never be an absolute outcome and it impossible to make it an obligation to prevent every single instance of harm because that is not the reality of life.

In practice, ‘diversity’ no longer means what it once did. Today, it is the ideology of progressive elites that represents ‘diversity’ as a socially engineered proportionality of identity based on race and gender but not of viewpoint, knowledge, or experience. To curtail criticism, these elites use ‘diversity’ interchangeably to present the same meaning: ‘ever-closer union’, ‘global governance’, ‘rules-based order’, ‘international community’, ‘transnationalism’, ‘new world order’, among many others, frequently mixing in ‘leadership’, ‘rules’, and ‘history’.

Multiculturalism as a government policy has been a failure in every country where it was implemented, and this truth has been bluntly admitted as so by the politicians that championed it. In 1971, Canada was the first country in the world to adopt multiculturalism as an official policy under Prime Minister Pierre Elliott Trudeau, who later admitted its failure. Following the recent overwhelming influx of illegal migration from Africa and the Middle East into Europe, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who initially welcomed the migrants and a policy of ‘Multikulti’, announced the policy of assimilation and integration had failed. Several other European leaders admitted the same. The result of this mass immigration has been the increase of ethnic voting blocs, whereas in Europe particularly Muslims vote strategically as a group for left-wing politicians because their policies of open borders, the welfare system, and censorship on criticism benefits them. This is distorting the nation’s democracies and hence the reason why new political parties and movements are being created in response.

Hozany describes the difference between imperialist and nationalist politics as a choice between two theories of knowledge, one that is rationalist (imperialist) and one that is empirical (nationalist): “we may say, in other words, a nationalist politics invites a great debate among the nations, and a world of experiments and learning. Whereas an imperialist politics declares that this debate is too dangerous or too troublesome, and that the time has come to end it.”

Globalist proponents believe they are more civilized and rational than nationalist savages and claim that where nationalism produces or co-exists alongside hatred of the ‘other’, liberals are ‘evolved’ above and beyond hatred. Yet because imperialists ignore the reality of identity based in human nature, they are actually who generates the most hatred when faced with opposition, which they automatically consider to be hatred simply for disagreement over the premise – this in itself is evidence that their universal ideals are not actually universal.

The ugly side of identity politics is how progressives have used it to deconstruct society into further devolution of identity traits from race to gender to sexuality to thought. Tribalism puts its back up in response to unnecessary – in accordance with human nature – threats to its people’s survival. The more globalist empires spread, the more human nature will fight back.

Is Moral Progress Real or Just a Myth?

Slavery was once ubiquitous throughout the world. Today, it is illegal everywhere. Is that a sign of moral progress or a temporary accomplishment that’s bound not to last? Put differently, are human beings capable of evolving toward higher states of ethical behaviour, or must slavery, along with other forgotten cruelties, inevitably reappear? Some backsliding is surely to occur, but history suggests that a full return to the savage days of yore is highly unlikely.

Slavery can be traced back to Sumer, a Middle Eastern civilisation that flourished between 4,500 BC and 1,900 BC. The early laws of the Babylonians, who overran Sumer in 18th century BC, appear to have taken ownership of one person by another for granted. Thus, the Code of Hammurabi states, “If a slave say to his master, ‘You are not my master,’ if they convict him his master shall cut off his ear.” Over the succeeding 4,000 years, chattel slavery would be practised, at one point or another, by every civilisation.

Prior to the Age of Steam, humanity depended on energy produced primarily by people and animals. An extra pair of field hands was always welcome and conquered people, if they escaped execution, were frequently put to work as slaves. There were no internment camps to hold captive populations and prisons were mere short-term holding cells, where the accused awaited trial, punishment and execution. In any case, low agricultural productivity and the concomitant food shortages meant that feeding a captured, but idle population was impractical.

Slavery existed in ancient Egypt, India, Greece, China, Rome and pre-Columbian America. The Arab slave trade took off during the Muslim conquests of the Middle Ages. The word “slave” probably derives from Late Latin word sclavus, which in turn denotes the Slavic peoples of Central and Eastern Europe who were enslaved by the Ottoman Turks.

 

The number of countries where slavery is legal has plummeted in the last two centuries

The number of countries where slavery is legal has plummeted in the last two centuries

Slavery in the Caribbean and the south-eastern United States, which was practised between the 16th and 19th centuries AD, saw millions of Africans brought to the New World for that very purpose. Yet slavery amongst African tribes, especially in West Africa, was also common and persisted until very recently. In fact, Mauritania became the last country to outlaw slavery in 1981 and, due to its persistence, criminalise the practice of enslavement in 2007.

As chattel slavery disappeared, our definition of slavery has expanded to include such practices as forced labour, sexual slavery and debt bondage. This is a common psychological behaviour called “prevalence-induced concept change.” As Harvard University psychologists David Levari and Daniel Gilbert found, people who were asked to identify “blue dots” tended to call purple dots “blue” as blue dots become rarer. Similarly, people who were asked to identify threatening faces tended to describe faces as threatening as threatening faces become rarer.

“From low-level perception of colour to higher-level judgments of ethics,” the two psychologists wrote, “there is a robust tendency for perceptual and judgmental standards to ‘creep’ when they ought not to.” Human psychology, then, partly explains the persistent allure of pessimism. As bad things become rarer, the human brain makes the definition of “bad” more encompassing.

This interplay between human nature and ethical behaviour strikes at the core of what we mean by progress. Some people, like the British philosopher John Gray, deny the possibility of moral progress. As he wrote, “I define progress … as any kind of advance that’s cumulative, so that what’s achieved at one period is the basis for later achievement that then, over time, becomes more and more irreversible. In science and technology, progress isn’t a myth. However, the myth is that the progress achieved in science and technology can occur in ethics, politics, or, more simply, civilisation.”

But Gray’s pessimism is difficult to reconcile with the disappearance of once common practices, such as human sacrifice and cannibalism. Human sacrifice has been looked down upon since the Roman times. Today, no rational being believes sacrificing virgins can bring about better harvests. Better fertilisation and pest control are much safer bets for aspiring farmers.

Hannibal Lecter notwithstanding, cannibalism has been extremely rare for centuries. Even during the communist famines in China and the Soviet Union, very few people resorted to eating their fellow human beings, preferring starvation instead. It is unlikely that even a potential collapse of global food supply would reverse the trend away from eating human flesh.

A civilisational collapse could, of course, resurrect some abhorrent practices. But some of the knowledge and internalised ethical precepts that humanity has so painstakingly accumulated over millennia will surely remain, thus moderating peoples’ behaviour even in the direst of times. In the meantime, we have to reconcile ourselves to the fact that progress is “self-cloaking.” The better things get, the more we will be on the lookout for things to worry about.


About the Author

Marian L. Tupy is a senior policy analyst at the Cato Institute and editor of HumanProgress.org

The Destruction of Ivory Poaching and the Illegal Wildlife Trade: Part 1

Humanity’s true moral test, its fundamental test … consists of its attitude towards those who are at its mercy: animals.
— Milan Kundera

Illegal wildlife poaching is once again on the rise as reported trafficking and seizures of animal parts have increased dramatically over the past few years. The illegal trafficking of wildlife is now one of the world’s largest criminal industries, with repeated links to terrorism networks, posing an increased threat to national security and economic stability. Contributing to the extinction of hundreds of species, including tigers, bears, elephants, and rhinoceroses, criminal organizations and rebel militias profit from the illicit wildlife and plant trade that is estimated to be worth between USD $70 and 213 billion a year. It’s destructive of the natural resources of countries and to legally operating businesses and tourism around the world.

Approximately 30,000 African elephants are killed annually for their ivory tusks and sales are increasing in countries like Cambodia. In some African countries including Senegal, Somalia, and Sudan, elephants have already been driven to extinction. Elephants are a keystone species, meaning other animals, plants, and entire ecosystems rely on them for survival, and just like humans, elephants share the same emotions and cognitive behavior as they grieve for their lost loved ones, feel fear, joy, and empathy, and are highly praised for their memory and intelligence. Poachers use sub-machine guns, night vision goggles, and helicopters to slaughter up to 100 elephants each day and in the last 10 years approximately 1,000 rangers were killed protecting wildlife in the “war” against poachers.

Between 1979 and 1989, the worldwide demand for ivory caused elephant populations to decline dangerously, cutting Africa’s elephant population in half. Savannah elephants with their larger tusks were targeted first and as their numbers dwindled poachers began to move into the forests for smaller elephant breeds. In the early 1970s, demand for ivory rocketed and 80 percent of raw ivory traded originated from poached elephants. In 1969, there were an estimated 1.3 million Savannah elephants in Africa but by 1997, only 600,000 remained. Today, there are only an estimated 415,000.

Endangered animal species are the most difficult to protect, as poachers go to the most extreme lengths to kill them. If we can safeguard these animals, then entire ecosystems are protected. However, the overall weight of seized ivory in illegal trade is now nearly three times greater than what was observed a decade ago. The trade threatens communities across Africa that are dependent on elephants and other species for income through tourism, therefore saving these endangered animals means preventing poverty, sustaining livelihoods, and promoting sustainable tourism.

Though it’s illegal to kill an elephant in Africa, people continue to slaughter them for ivory or revenge. Roaming elephant herds migrate into human populations in both the forests and savannah. Whereas Masai herdsmen coexist with elephants by leaving their livestock unfenced and letting the animals walk through their land, farmers attempt to barricade their crops from hungry elephant ‘pests’ who may destroy the season’s harvest and their livelihood. Conservationists and scientists are working on education and technology to help elephants and farmers co-exist. 

A survey carried out by International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW) showed that 70 percent of the Chinese population believed that elephant’s ivory simply fell out and did not inflict any harm on the elephant in the process. This statistic is a firm reminder that education is fundamental to the future survival of elephants.

History of the Trade

Elephant ivory has been exported from Africa and Asia for centuries with records going back to the 14th century BCE. At the peak of the ivory trade during the colonization of Africa, around 800 to 1,000 tonnes of ivory was sent to Europe alone. Ivory hunters were responsible for wiping out elephants in North Africa approximately 1,000 years ago, in South Africa in the 19th century, and most of West Africa by the end of the 20th century.

Global wars and economic depressions resulted in a decline in demand for ivory, before interest was renewed in the 1970s as prosperity improved. Japan began to buy raw ivory, which put pressure on the forest elephants of Africa and Asia, both of which were used to supply the hard ivory preferred by the Japanese for the production of hankos, or name seals. Softer ivory from East Africa and southern Africa was traded for souvenirs, jewelry, and trinkets. Throughout the 1970s, Japan consumed about 40 percent of the global trade and another 40 percent was consumed by Europe and North America, traded through Hong Kong’s trade hub. The rest remained in Africa and at that time China only consumed small amounts of ivory to keep its skilled carvers in business.

In 1986, the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) introduced a new control system involving paper permits, registration of huge ivory stockpiles, and monitoring of legal ivory movements. These controls were supported by most CITES participating countries, the ivory trade, and the established conservation movement represented by World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) and Traffic and the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN). In 1989, CITES placed an international ban on all international trade to combat the massive illegal market. As a result, major ivory markets were eliminated and some countries in Africa experienced a steep decline in illegal killing allowing some elephant populations to recover.

In June 1997, CITES voted partially to lift trade sanctions and to allow Zimbabwe, Botswana, and Namibia to sell stockpiled ivory to Japan. Many conservation groups feared this loosening of the ivory ban would rekindle poaching throughout the elephants’ range, and following a ‘one-off sale’ in 2008, the illegal trade grew rapidly. In 2011, there were the largest seizures of ivory since records began. Elephant populations again declined quickly as poaching escalated across much of Africa, fuelling the black market. 

The Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES)

The Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) is an international agreement to which governments voluntarily adhere and which seeks to ensure that the trade in specimens of wild animals and plants does not threaten their survival.

The annual international trade in wildlife ranges from live animals and plants to a vast array of wildlife products derived from them, including foods, exotic leather goods, wooden musical instruments, timber, tourist curios and medicines. Some animal and plant species are heavily exploited and the trade in them, together with other factors such as habitat loss, is capable of seriously depleting their populations and even pushing some close to extinction. Many wildlife species in trade are not endangered, but the existence of an agreement to ensure the sustainability of the trade is important in order to safeguard them for the future.

CITES was drafted as a result of a resolution adopted in 1963 at a meeting of members of The World Conservation Union. It entered into force on July 1, 1975 and today accords varying degrees of protection to more than 30,000 species of animals and plants. States which have agreed to be bound by the Convention are known as Parties. Although CITES is legally binding on the Parties, it does not take the place of national laws but instead provides a framework around which each Party is expected to adopt its own domestic legislation. At present, 175 Parties have opted to be bound by the provisions of CITES.

What is the Conference of the Parties (CoP)?

The Conference of the Parties (CoP) is the supreme body of the Convention, comprising all Parties. Every three years, the Conference of the Parties meets to review the implementation of the Convention. These meetings last for about two weeks and are usually hosted by one of the Parties. The meetings are widely referred to as ‘CoP’ followed by a sequential number indicating the unique identity of the individual meetings (the first meeting was CoP1, the second CoP2, and so on).

Read the full list of participating countries

What are the CITES appendices?

The CITES appendices are lists of animals and plants afforded different levels or types of protection from over-exploitation.

Appendix I lists those species deemed most endangered. They are threatened with extinction and CITES prohibits international trade in specimens of these species except when the purpose of the import is not commercial, such as for scientific research, when trade may be allowed if authorised by both an import permit and an export permit (or re-export certificate).

Appendix II lists species not necessarily threatened with extinction at present but which may become so unless trade is closely controlled. International trade in specimens of species listed in Appendix II may be authorised by the granting of an export permit or re-export certificate. No import permit is necessary under CITES. Permits or certificates should only be granted if the relevant authorities are satisfied that certain conditions are met, above all that trade will not be detrimental to the survival of the species in the wild.

Appendix III lists species included at the request of a Party that already regulates trade in the species and needs the cooperation of other countries to prevent unsustainable or illegal exploitation. International trade in specimens of Appendix III species is allowed only on presentation of the appropriate permits or certificates.

Species may be added to or removed from Appendix I and Appendix II, or moved between them, only by the Conference of the Parties, either at its regular meetings or by postal procedures.