We have forgotten our interdependence with nature – rhino and elephant culling en masse is just one example of this disconnect. It does not matter how many rhino horns are sold, humans are greedy and they will want more. There will never be enough rhino horn, enough wealth, enough pleasure. Why do humans operate from such an emotionally deprived place, with a mindset and experience of ‘not being good enough’ and an inner un-rooted restlesness and longing for the empty hole inside to be filled? It is a chicken and egg situation: emotional wellebing and maturity is interconnected with recognizing our interdependence with nature and the necessity of living with the earth in a way that makes it possible for her to be nurturing and able to replenish herself. Our survival – physically and emotionally depends on it.
The answer is not a sword for a sword, or a tooth for a tooth – more violence: the poachers kill the rhinos and the elephants, and the anti-poaching protection units try to kill the poachers, who then try to kill those in the anti-poaching units, and so we go round and round. Violence begets violence. We are insane. Insanity is trying the same thing over and over again, the proverbial ‘hitting your head against a brick wall’ and because we repetitively and compulsively use the same methods we get the same results.
The answer is not more government and organizational involvement, what power do they really have with the ‘ducking and diving’ that goes on with trasnporting rhino horn and elephant tusks to parts of the world where they will be sold? There are so many levels of corruption. We are getting closer to a solution however when our leaders begin to show a different mindset and begin to cooperate – to be community across boundaries and differences.
The answer is not in educating those in China, Japan and Thailand through popular film stars, royalty and sports heroes, but once again we are getting closer, we are raising awareness. The problem is we are only doing so on a head level. People are only motivated when knowledge becomes heart felt.
The answer is not in alleviating the poverty of the people on the borders of wildlife reserves where rhinos and elephants exist, because what about the poverty of the soul? Once again we are getting closer.
When will everyone recognize this is an emotional and spiritual problem. The more humans became ‘too clever for their own good’ and move towards city life and westernized lifetsyles the more we become disconnected from ourselves, less loving in our relationships, emotionally deprived and eco-alienated and destructive towards the earth that sustains us.
We can forget about conservation unless we change human mindsets. What are we doing about this core problem?
How are we going to change the mindsets of those that kill the rhinos and the elephants?
How are we going to change the mindsets of those who seek wealth?
How are we going to change the mindsets of those who use the money gained to plunder the land and violate its animals and its people?
How are going to change the mindsets of those who do not care?
Are we going to sit them down in a classroom, even one in the bush, and say ‘naughty, naughty – look what you are doing? Are we going to lecture those in schools and institutions in the countries far away from where elephants and rhinos live about what their parents are doing when they buy ivory?
One of the most authentic, mind and heartblowing experiences is to connect with the love of the God who created us – because we then begin to live life according to very different principles, and we need miracles.
I learnt much when I visited Greg Rasmussen and the Painted Hunting Dog project, it is the most integrated and positive approach to Conservation I have seen to date and a model we should emulate. He not only takes care of the wild dogs that are damaged in poachers’ traps and creates reflector collars for wild dogs to wear so that they are not run over at night; but he has bush camps for the children who are formulating their value systems to teach them about what poaching does to the animals they are observing and spending time with. They return home and tell their fathers and brothers – NO MORE POACHING. Finally some of the funds raised from those visiting the Painted Hunting Dog Centre goes towards an old age home in the community.
Even this model however does not address the emotional needs of the human race in a way that will benefit conservation. As an Ecopsychologist I straddle two professions Psychology – the world of people’s inner thinking, motivations and emotions, and Consevation – how natural systems operate and survive. The two are intedependent: Good Mental Health and Environmental Sustainability go hand-in-hand. One does not exist without the other.
A final recommendation is to bring the children from China, Thailand and Japan who are formulating their value systems – those just entering their teens and those just entering adulthood, into a wildlife experience where their hearts are touched and their mindsets changed because they encounter the animals their parents and leaders are indirectly killing. They will return home as the greatest Ambabssadors of an Anti-Poaching campaign.
I am not sure how to change the mindset of those who are doing the killing, maybe someone else has some thoughts about that, but if they do not have a market to fuel their ivory-carnaging activities, what would be the point?