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Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Day 297: Profit Versus Preservation

Profit wins.

The countryside of South Africa is made up of a lot of farm land, certain provinces may produce more of a few products than others - consider KwaZulu Natal for instance: the major agricultural products are sugar cane, paper and pulp. Sugar cane can be seen from many highways and has become quite a popular venture for farmers trying to survive; while forests of trees destined to be made into paper, pulp or poles line the other half of the highways. Okay, that's a bit exaggerated, but there really is a lot of sugar cane and forest in this province - one doesn't really notice it until its pointed out, since when one grows up with certain surroundings then one simply assumes that they are supposed to be there and will be there 'till the end of time.

I wonder though, where has all the wildlife gone? South Africa is thought of as a wild land, fraught with the terrors of lions and leopards jumping on safari vehicles. The reality is that one finds wildlife in only a very small portion of the country these days - and no one even asks what happened to the millions of animals and critters living on what used to be grassland or natural forests, but which has now been turned into sugar cane and paper forests, completely unsuitable for any animals to live in simply because there is no food.

There is one animal that is still clinging on to existence: the vervet monkey. They live in a few of the more "natural" (ie there are still some trees around houses) areas of the province. They are tolerated by a few and despised by many humans, since they enter homes, making a huge mess and attacking pets on occasion. People blame the monkeys for "trespassing" into their homes, some even killing the monkeys if they are able, not stopping for a moment to consider - to really consider - what it is to be a monkey in this world, struggling to find enough food, since all the edible plants are removed and replaced by pretty ones.

Where will the animals that are left go when we expand our farmlands? What will they eat? They have no wallets or bank accounts with which to purchase food, and there are precious few people who care enough to try and make a difference and help the animals. How will the mothers feed their young? What happens when different groups or individuals are forced into the same territory? What reason will we give them when we face them in the afterlife? How could we justify our actions?

Our conversion of nature into product-producing farmland is called "green", "efficient" and "sustainable" - but what of the consequences for the animals, the plants, the trees that were there before? What happens when, in our drive for high output, the groundwater becomes toxic from all the chemicals applied to the soil? What happens when we farm all of the topsoil away? What happens when the land no longer supports our excessive force of farming? How can we call our actions "green" when we have not even really considered the cost of these actions?

Trying to profit from the environment can and will only ever end with the end of the environment - our greed and drive for profit will exert itself and smother our good intentions.

1 comment:

  1. thanks, I noticed when I flew over South Africa almost all of the land was taken for farming, it surprised me. No place for wildlife left.

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