Commentaries on Humans, Animals & the Environment

Commentary on the relationships between humans and other animals -including snakes - are becoming more common in the media given recent events: the 16-foot Burmese python killed in the Florida everglades, the Zanesville Animal tragedy; escaped mambas terrorizing Bangkok, or at least the thought of escaped mambas.

Ken White. President of the Peninsula Humane Society & SPCA has a commentary in the San Francisco Examiner where he expresses the following opinions: (1) far too many people keep exotic animals, (2)  too much money is made by the industries which supply and then support the keeping of these animals, and none of those industries’ practices are in any way good for the animals (3) it's clear we need laws to protect both wild animals from people and to protect people from what happens when wild animals are kept where they do not belong by a species which is, frighteningly often, incapable of taking care of itself.

The Gainesville Sun has an editorial that is asking, why is it still legal to import and sell these dangerous snakes? And, demanding legislation and a halt to the exotic animal industry.

Unfortunately all of the editors and the outraged public demanding legislation are looking for answers in the wrong place, just as the "war on drugs" was doomed to failure, laws banning exotic animals are doomed to failure. Legislation is the quick solution for the politician to appear to solve a social problem - just pass a law and the public will fall in-line. This is quite in-effective when it comes to basic human needs - it may work for traffic regulation (at least some of the time). You can't control drug addiction with laws or explosives because the root cause is in the biochemistry in the human central nervous system.

People keep exotic animals because of the basic human need to understand and relate to nature (biophilia), a need that is poorly understood and has been ignored as society becomes more technological. The long term answer to solving drug addiction and problems of human-animal relationships lies in education.

There is but one way to influence human behavior long term and in a way that is effective - education. Natural history education has the potential to change the world as we know it, and produce a society that respects the environment, the environment that is both internal (the human body) and external (ecosystems). If you are unfamiliar with the Natural History Network it is worth the time to investigate their movement.

At the moment huge amounts of money are pumped into legislation, law enforcement and the justice system all attempt to solve problems after the fact. The money would be much better spent educating the public on the stories of nature and how humans play a role in the ecosystem so that we treat the environment, each other, and ourselves much better than we do now. Currently, most school curriculums decouple human and nature - a disastrous road into the future.

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