Two news reports in today’s New York Times, one about elephants, "An Elephant Crack-up, the cover story in the magazine, and the other, Monday morning’s, Columbus Day, big headline, "North Korea detonates nuclear device."
I asked myself which of these stories held the most significance for us humans, North Korea’s possession of the Bomb, or elephant packs being seriously deranged if not destroyed by the growing human encroachment on their living spaces?
My vote goes to the elephants, and here’s why. The possession of the bomb is, I believe, a civilizing force. It brings with it responsibility. Without it the nation, feeling left out, acts irresponsibly. With it the nation gains respect, although begrudgingly, and now, for its own prosperous future, quickly grasps that it has to act responsibly if it would realize that prosperity. And now as an equal. Strength to strength relationships, my strong arm facing off against your strong arm, are stabilizing forces. Strength to weakness relationships are highly unstable, and the constant source of quarrels leading to wars.
How we treat surviving elephant populations goes much more to what we are. Do we step back and alllow this other animal population to go on possessing a territory and home of its own, beyond our grasp, or do we make its territory just one more property in our own ever expanding possession and exploitation of all the earth’s habitable land, disregarding the claims of whatever other animal species were there before us?
"Goes much more to what we are." Are we one among many precious forms of animal and plant life onthe earth? Or are we, as the only valued life form, destined to allow only those other species, such as grasses and livestock, that are now entirely in our service, insuring our survival and continual expansion, to exist alongside of us? Elephants, other than promoting the sale of circus and zoo tickets, do nothing for us. Perhaps an ivory farm? But that’s probably not cost effective.
So if ever we take the steps needed to preserve the lives of elephants by allowoing them a habitat of their own we then surmount our own egotism and are better inhabitants of the earth ourselves as a result. This is happening, let’s hope not too slowly. For there are many among us who are are trying to give these wonderful creatures space. It’s not yet news that we have succeeded, but this is a much more important and on-going story than the nuclear device that was exploded in North Korea yesterday.