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As we set our sails for 2017, we will need to constantly adjust our rudder to steer us past the winds of change headed for our natural and virtual ecosystems. I hope my own actions are bolted to four principles, and though I expect to be buffeted and thrown off-balance, I’ll rely in their timeless resiliency. I hope to stay tolerant, respectful, transparent and a responsible citizen.
Yet, in each of these lie unexpected challenges that will require a firm grip on reality and a clear vision; but rough seas make good sailors.
Easier said than done. Must we tolerate those who despise us? And on the flip side, don’t we hate being tolerated—the charitable patronizing that makes us feel inferior? Yet, tolerance is what makes our society—if not civilized—then at least civil. Can we perhaps try that?
How often will I need to bite my tongue is year? How often will I need to take the higher road and not respond to hate-spewing social media trolls? Is it even responsible to allow their impunity? And we have the First Amendment that protects freedom of speech. Which begs the question: Is freedom a right (to which we are entitled) or a responsibility that we must defend?
Must we respect the rule of law when it allows the loss of wildlife for commercial interests?
Fine. We expose all sorts of things about ourselves to the world. I’m a huge fan of open-source in technology and in medical research. But where does open communication infringe on our privacy? We want our government and their government to engage in measured, considered diplomacy, yet do the cyber operatives agree, or even know about diplomacy? And how do we define ourselves, unless through branding our identity and in so doing, sell our souls?
In a shining example of openness, Paul G. Allen and his team at Vulcan Inc. have counted Africa’s savanna elephants, in an effort known as The Great Elephant Census (GEC). It is the first pan-African survey of elephants using standardized data collection and validation methods. But openness is a double-edged sword: The Chinese government recently announced that they would shut down the ivory trade—in 2018. To which I say, why the wait? Do we need more exposure from Wildleaks, which, I contend, helped to force their announcement?
Democracy (and citizenship)
This tattered concept is too vague and is abused by politicians and interest groups with equal disrespect. Innate in being democratic is the assumption that all human life matters. But without sounding too ridiculous, shouldn’t we value all life—especially sentient beings? Further, does being democratic mean that we are good citizens only of our own town or of our planet? These alliances are often mutually exclusive.
The uncomfortable truth is that science is showing more and more evidence that many endangered wildlife species are intelligent beyond our wildest imagination. Who, to cite just one example, would have thought that elephants can sense a tsunami and move to higher ground or an earthquake before it occurs? What do we lose by excluding the contributions of these beings?
Geoffrey Wells writes about privacy, elephant conservation, cyber trends and music. And of course, updates on his latest thriller, Atone for the Ivory Cloud.