There is a great misunderstanding out there over the value of things. For we humans - this is just the way that we are, not a moral reflection - take care of those things that we value and we don’t take care of those things we don’t. This should be obvious of course - to take care of something is a demonstration of valuing it.
This demand to allow the international trading of ivory therefore makes great sense:
African nations home to more than half the world’s population of elephants on Monday called for an end to the ban on sales of ivory.
Delegates from six countries attended a summit in Botswana this week where they discussed how to persuade the world to lift the 30-year-old ban imposed by the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species, CITES.
The attendees, which included heads of state from Botswana, Zambia, Zimbabwe and Namibia, stressed they want to be able to sell huge stockpiles of ivory to boost funds for conservation and anti-poaching.
Mokweetsi Masisi, the president of Botswana, said on his arrival at Kusane that the summit's theme was: "Towards a common vision for the management of our elephants."
Animals that humans value persist out there in the environment. There’re many more cattle out there than a purely wild world would have because we like to eat cattle. They are of value to us so we ensure they exist. Elephants producing value for humans will continue to exist. Those that don’t, well, they won’t, will they?
We can indeed say that the simple existence of elephants out there is of value to us. That warm glow we get when viewing a National Geographic documentary. But it’s equally obvious, given what is happening to those herds that such a valuation isn’t enough. For we don’t in fact cough up enough money to ensure their survival. Thus something more must be done to allow the capture of that value which will ensure that survival.
To say that we ought to value elephants without making billiard balls of them is fine - nothing wrong with a bit of moral exhortation. But management of the world needs to depend upon the facts about us, not the better angels we aren’t.