Posted by Chris & Mathilde Stuart on Friday, January 22, 2016
Over the last few days we went through our scientific papers, scanning those still only in old paper format to keep and to put them all onto our webpage (you may have noticed already?). We came across a paper Chris read at the South African Museums Association Conference for Education Officers in Grahamstown in 1983 - some 33 years ago! We would like to share the first section of this paper with you - as nothing has changed (and not much has been achieved) in those 33 years.
We are dealing with two very important problems when we discuss conservation: ignorance and greed. The attitude of many can be summarized as follows, thanks to John Ruskin:
'Remember that the most beautiful things in the world are the most useless; Peacocks and Lilies for instance'
There is nothing in nature to prove that it cares more for our human species than for flies. We may one day vanish as quickly and radically as thousands of species before us. Whatever we have in common with other living things, there is one characteristic that is our exclusive genius; we are the only species working deliberately towards our own destruction.
The greatest threat to the environment and its varied biota is ignorance. We are often blind to what may be happening on our own doorstep. Over-exploitation, short-term benefit, introduction of exotics and pollution, to name but a few. The fight to save our threatened environment and its biota cannot be won by the professional elite alone, as they can accomplish very little without Government and popular support.
We have to avoid emotionalism and paternalism, and we must not play political marbles, unless of course one is on first name terms with one's local member of parliament or provincial counselor. Although, inevitably, politicians will become involved in most conservation and/or environmental issues, it is important to try and prevent them becoming political issues although I realize the difficulty in avoiding this.
Many conservation causes are lost, or lose their impact, because of emotional outbursts by an ill-informed minority. Wilderness, wildlife and our natural environment depend for their continued existence on the direction of mankind's cultural development. The quality of life is dependent on the whims of the biosphere, and as part of that biosphere the quantity and quality of man. The longer and better mankind lives, the worse off will the biosphere be. This of course depends on one's definition of better.
Here we come to the pivotal problem, overpopulation resulting from a virtually unchecked birthrate in Africa, as well as elsewhere on our globe. Of course we could blame this on the moon, as does Christopher Fry in The Lady's not for burning.
'The moon is nothing
But a circumambulatory aphrodisiac
Divinely subsidized to provoke the world
Into a rising birth rate'.
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