An Earth Day message from Massachusetts for Elephants
April 22, 2020
We hope that you and your loved ones are safe and well in these difficult, tumultuous times. There is much swirling around us as the coronavirus spreads, the economy stumbles, and the world convulses in agony and grief.
In every challenge, there is a visible surface problem that attracts great energy and investment in a surface solution. Today, it is a novel virus that has achieved a great evolutionary victory by successfully leaping to humans, the most prevalent large animal host on the planet. The valiant efforts of many are focused on healing the ill, halting the spread, and developing a vaccine. Like all crises, this one will have an end.
Or will it? This coronavirus is not the first, nor will be the last, pathogen to wreak havoc on the world.
Beneath every challenge there is a less visible root problem that demands a deeper, systemic solution. The most effective way for humans to mitigate future pandemic risks is to reimagine our relationship with the wild. For too long, humans have presumed that we were free to take any action, exploit any resource, and claim any habitat without long-term negative consequences. That was folly.
While the precise source of this pandemic is still under investigation, it seems clear that it had its genesis in the wildlife trade and “wet markets” where animals are slaughtered on site. Some reports suggest that the pangolin, the world’s most trafficked mammal, may have been the transitional host between bats and humans. The greatest risk of future pandemics comes from the continued flourishing of practices that treat wild animals as if they are trinkets or toys, and wild lands as simply waiting to “tamed.”
We are deeply grateful for the efforts of healthcare workers and others on the front lines of combatting the surface problem of the coronavirus. At the same time, we are redoubling our commitment to and support of those fighting for a systemic solution where the where the wild is treasured and respected, not harvested.
At MAFE, we continue to push for legislation that will ban the trade in ivory and prohibit wild animals in traveling shows. We advocate for national and international legislation and regulation that bans the wildlife trade and deters poaching and other destructive practices. We support sustainable community development that helps human and non-human species thrive together. And we serve as connector for people across the Commonwealth who care about elephants and other wild species, large and small.
We also encourage enlightened consumerism: reducing purchases where possible and carefully choosing the brands we support. As everything is connected, every action matters. The continued existence of elephants, rhinos, orangutans, and other species is dependent upon the choices each of us makes each and every day.
Today, the coronavirus looms as the most urgent threat before us. It is, however, only a symptom of a larger danger: our unhealthy and unsustainable relationship with nature. We are at an inflection point that can help us reframe that relationship into a more positive one.
What can you do? Send an extra donation to your favorite environmental or conservation non-profit to commemorate the 50th anniversary of Earth Day. Write or call your elected officials. Choose carefully as you shop. And continue to stay connected to MAFE. Together, we will make a difference.
Eric McNulty and the Massachusetts for Elephants Team