In my last two posts (here, here), I wrote about a recentForeign Affairs piece that proposed lifting the ban on trading rhino horn and the political and substantive reasons why such an idea is problematic.
Are there reasons to think that a one-off sale or even a permanent normalization of the trade might go well? While Save the Rhino is against one-off sales, it is a little more equivocal on a semi-permanent regulation of the trade (though I doubt this is where other NGOs are):
Save the Rhino International is generally in favour of sustainable use, believing that conservation efforts must, as far as possible, be income-generating in order to avoid over-reliance on international donor support (and any undue strings attached to funding support by those donors). In reality, we recognise that some rhino conservation field programmes have very few options for income generation (unlike, for example, government wildlife departments that derive income from National Park fees), so we accept that there will continue to be a need for donor funding in many cases. However, we have not yet reached a position on the debate over a (semi) permanent legalisation of the trade in rhino horn.
On the demand side, South Africa (if it is to propose a legal trade at the next CITES CoP in 2016) still needs to establish a credible trading partner. Neither Vietnam nor China nor any other country has yet come forward. Being a credible trading partner will entail a much higher level of law enforcement and political will to combat the illegal trade in rhino horn than has been evidenced so far. Who knows how rising affluence in other Asian countries will affect the demand for rhino horn? And who knows how many more Vietnamese or Chinese will want to buy rhino horn once the stigma of buying illegal products is removed.
Will either regulated trade or a one-off sale of rhino horn incentivize demand?
In my last post, I reacted to a Foreign Affairs piece that suggested lifting the ban on rhino horn, as South Africa has toyed with in the lead up to the 2016 CITES meeting it will host. Whether or not this would be a one-off sale like the one for ivory in 2008 or more of a permanent lifting of the trade ban is uncertain. A committee in South Africa is currently reviewing evidence and accepting testimony on the topic. Though South Africa is home to nearly 3/4 of the world’s remaining rhinos, lifting the ban in some capacity would require 2/3 of the voting members at CITES’ approval. In this post, I review some of the main arguments advocates have mustered to oppose legalization of the trade, with which I largely concur.
I admit that the current situation is untenable, but I’m not convinced that the legalization argument is politically or substantively wise.
What is the political argument against lifting the ban?
It’s not going to happen. Getting 2/3 of the countries in the world to approve lifting the ban in 2016 is a heavy lift. Will Travers of the Born Free Foundation makes a pretty strong case that this legalization discussion is a non-starter and counter-productive:
“Let’s say SA does put through its proposal, and that it has a central selling organisation as part of its proposal with lots of safeguards built in. Perhaps there’s even some designated trading partners. That has to be approved by 66 percent or more of the attending parties to COP17. In total, there are 180 parties to Cites. But let’s say 160 parties turn up at the meeting.
“That means SA will have to get 107 votes for that to fly. At the moment, my understanding is the EU is against trade. That’s 28 votes. I don’t think the US is going to take it. Australia is going to say no. Kenya too. There’s a whole raft of countries against. We only have to tip up to 55 votes against, and the blocking minority prevents it.
“You know what I’d say to SA? ‘Don’t bother. Don’t do it.’ It’s hugely embarrassing to go to the conference and get 30 votes on the table. It’s happened in the past where people walk out sweating and feeling ill. And you’re the host country.
Two weeks ago, I came cross a provocative piece (paywall, free version here) Foreign Affairs published earlier this year by Alexander Kasterine from the UN/WTO International Trade Center on legalizing the trade in wildlife, namely for rhino horn, but conceivably for other species that are currently illegal to trade under the Convention on the International Trades in Endangered Species (CITES). Indeed, South Africa, host to the 2016 CITES meeting and home of the majority of the world’s remaining rhinos, is angling to legalize the trade in rhino horn in the face of an unprecedented onslaught of poaching that the current is facing. Is legalization of the trade in these species a good idea? In the first of several posts, I’m going to begin to analyze this question. My initial take on this question is that legalizing the trade is not a good idea, but I’m using these posts to try to work through the arguments for and against the idea, beginning with rhinos but then I’ll assess some other species.
Kasterine’s main argument is that the ban is failing Africa’s wildlife:
While the lead up to tenure is often terrifyingly stressful, even attaining that goal is a bit daunting as it raises the question, “Now what?” I suppose on some level one can then set one’s sights on the next thing, Full Professor, but that obviously doesn’t have the same significance in terms of career and life trajectory that tenure does. Getting tenure raises all sorts of questions about what you want to be when you grow up, if a life in the academy makes you happy, or if the kind of life you are leading in the academy is what you want to be doing.
When I first started graduate school, I had no intention of going in to academia, though it is the family business. No, as I told my designated mentor on the first day of graduate school, the veteran comparativist Sam Barnes, “I want to run for Congress and if that doesn’t work out, I will teach.” Pretty clueless. As Dan Drezner has pointed out, the gravitational pull of universities is strong for those pursuing a PhD, and I succumbekd to the temptation to go into academia with the continuation of the same kinds of incentive structures I was familiar with from before, get publications out replaced get good grades. Aim for a top 3 journal! Try to get the citation count up! I had the nagging suspicion that there is more to life than that and more out of this episode experience that I had to have if I wanted to stick with it.
I made the decision upon getting tenure that I wanted to teach and work on issues that I cared about. While that was always true before, I had less flexibility in terms of teaching choices. I was a price-taker: we need you to teach a writing class so here you go. After tenure, I made the choice that I wanted to teach a mix of classes, one that obviously the school needed and others that I needed. I was an environmental activist and development campaigner twenty years ago in college (and indeed knowledge of that space greatly informs my scholarly interests in social movements). I often ask myself, would my 20-something self be proud of the person I have become? Sometimes, in the slog for tenure, publications, and provincial university politics, you can lose track of what is important.
I’ve been MIA of late on the blog, mostly a function of end-of-term obligations. I’ve led a year-long graduate course on global wildlife conservation (course blog here). If you haven’t followed the news of late, iconic wildlife species like rhinos and elephants are threatened with extinction, mostly because rising incomes in China and Vietnam in particular are allowing more people to satisfy their desires for wildlife products.
Since the late 2000s, there has been a surge in demand for wildlife products. For example, poaching of rhinos, most of which survive in South Africa, have increased from negligible levels in 2007 to in excess of 1000 animals slaughtered per year. Much of the demand comes from Vietnam where ground rhino horn is erroneously thought to be a cure for a cancer, a hangover cure, and other maladies.
We recently presented our findings in Washington, DC before different audiences, and in the coming posts, I’ll be highlighting the key findings from six different areas – consumer demand, security, multilateral approaches, sport hunting, ecotourism, and public-private partnerships. I invite you to watch a video of our findings below or to review a powerpoint of the key issues here.
The planet is set to experience an extraordinarily tragic loss of species. This is inherently a political problem – weak range states in Africa, strong states in Asia with populations that lack an ethos of care for wildlife, and Western states with vibrant conservation communities but where other issues take center stage. I encourage bright minds in the Duck audience to bring their talents to bear on this issue. Can incentives be aligned? Can global, bilateral, and minilateral processes change outcomes in range and demand states? Can publics in Asia be persuaded to change their behavior? Time is running out.
Roads. Who can be against them, right? They allow us to get from A-to-B. And as anyone who has been to a place where there were no roads can attest, their absence is a real impediment to the modern political economy. The construction of roads is thus a central feature of the international development agenda. The World Bank publishes analysis of road investment by developing countries. The World Trade Organization claims ~30% of all overseas development aid ($25-$30 billion) is spent on trade related development—central to which is road construction and maintenance. Continue reading
Leebaw examines representations of the natural environment in laws of war as they have evolved in four stages:
under Grotius, a conception of Nature as Property, with protections articulated in the same way that men were once protected from the rape of “their women” during wars
under early efforts to ban chemical weapons, the notion of Nature as Combatant, with chemical weapons’ development and prohibition internationally relying both on a notion that the weapons were too “inhumane” to use on humans in battle yet perfectly appropriate to use against insects domestically – insects being framed as ‘the enemy’ and later themselves conscripted into military service.
under the environmental movement of the 60s, the notion of Nature as Pandora’s Box, an untameable force preparing to unleash ecological consequences humans can’t predict or absorb – a yet-anthropocentric discourse which viewed natural disaster in consequentialist terms
Nature as Victim, a view more associated with the resurgent notion of “ecocide” as an international judicial claim – a perspective invented by Richard Falk in the 70s but ill-reflected in treaty law on environmental war crimes and revitalized in the post-Rome Statute era of international criminal law.
Reading this, and enjoying the many theoretical directions Leebaw maps out for scholars rethinking boundaries between national, global, human and planetary security, I was brought back to the NatureisSpeaking.org movement and the distinctively gaialogical way I Am the Ocean frames the planet – as fundamentally indifferent to the human race. Continue reading
Today is World Wildlife Day, and species we think of as part of the fundamental awesome creatures of the natural world – elephants, rhinos, and sharks – face unprecedented risks of extinction, particularly as a result of rising demand from Asia and China in particular. I’m currently teaching a year-long class on Global Wildlife Conservation for which my students have been writing some excellent posts on the poaching crisis and what can be done. If you are not familiar with this problem, this brief post provides a bit of background.
Over the past couple of years, news of the global poaching crisis of iconic species like elephants and rhinos has spread. Elephant tusks are prized for ivory for carvings and trinkets, with increased purchasing power and greater China-Africa commerce and ties leading to surges in demand. Countries in Central Africa have experienced steep declines in elephant populations due to poaching, losing by one estimate 64% of their elephants in the past decade. Late last year, this culminated in news of involvement by China’s presidential delegation in ivory smuggling in diplomatic bags out of Tanzania in 2013. This week, China announced a one-year ban on imported ivory, which is welcome news, but this is a critical time for the global community to put pressure on the Chinese government to rein in domestic demand forever. Even as China announced this positive move, elsewhere aging Zimbabwe dictator Robert Mugabe celebrated his 94th birthday by treating his guests to baby elephant. Continue reading