Global Commons going to the birds?


South African environmentalists are a curious bunch. On the one hand, they get upset every time somebody cuts down a tree, and then demand that entire forests of European pine are cut down. Then there’s the odd bunch in Noordhoek making life miserable for Egyption Geese who they say are upsetting local birds.

Is this a case of the lunatic fringe making inroads into sober political debate? First off public forests such as Tokai and Cecilia represent a century of the commonwealth, that interesting notion invented by Cecil John Rhodes, admittedly an arch-colonialist, but nevertheless one of the first protoganists of the philosophy of liberating the masses via public works.

Forests are public utilities. They are not simply there for locals, but represent an attempt to universalise nature, in the sense everybody should enjoy a European forest at some stage of their life. Cutting this down, and replanting fynbos, is therefore shortsighted, a short-term view that shifts value and meaning away from people, the commons, to nature for natures-sake alone. A case perhaps of deep ecology becoming mired in the assumption that man (and woman) can be stripped away from the environment and replaced by a new form of indigenous veld (that can only imitate that which it replaced).

Egyption geese are migratory birds, African birds, who have ever right to journey to the Cape, and yet, like so many “foreigners”, they are now being hounded. A picture in today’s Weekend Argus illustrates with a patronising sense of glee, the fact that nesting birds are being disturbed by a “goose chaser” with a big stick. Heartless, in its gloating at the fact that local birds will now be safe from the Egyption horde. I like Egyptian Geese. They are damn side better than European pigoens, which should probably be shot!

Again, the feral deer now being slaughtered after the Afganistan moutain goats have become extinct, thanks to well-meaning but delusional ecologists. Children in the cape will no longer be able to visit Bambi. The “bokkie” doe-eyed painting warning us of veld fires has been stripped of meaning and replaced by the insane cadence of biologists who warn against foreigners stealing fynbos. Let the Cape fynbos either die out, or take hold in regions untrammelled by the interventions of humankind.

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