09 December 2010


MOUNTAIN GORILLAS. In a rare bit of encouraging environmental news (amid the flood of species extinctions and habitat destruction), John Collins Rudolf reports in the NYTimes that "The number of mountain gorillas at a crucial site in Central Africa has grown by more than 25 percent since 2003, reflecting a significant recovery for the highly endangered species .... The count brings to 480 the number of gorillas known to inhabit the Virunga Massif, a roughly 180-square-mile area that covers territory from national parks in Rwanda, Uganda, and the Democratic Republic of Congo. Thirty years ago, just 250 mountain gorillas were counted in the region, and the species was believed to be in imminent danger of extinction .... Researchers and conservationists said the steady recovery of the species was heartening but called for maintained vigilance against threats .... Increased patrols by better-equipped anti-poaching officers have been a key driver in curbing poaching, yet programs to promote local economic development have also aided protection efforts."

This is (cautiously) grand news indeed. Anyone who has seen the 1988 film Gorillas In The Mist, based on the true events in the life, research, and eventual murder of zoologist Dian Fossey, understands in vivid detail the tenuous plight of mountain gorillas. Their territory overlaps several countries. The combined effects of war, loss of habitat to human encroachment, and the slaughter of gorillas for their feet and heads on the world black market, placed these, our gentle evolutionary relatives, in peril for their lives. It is a truism with many endangered species that money talks. Militant protection must be coupled with providing would-be poachers with an alternative means of making a living. In the case of the gorillas, the means include keeping bees for honey and making handicrafts for tourists. Increasingly, green tourism is proving to be a godsend in the fight to preserve Earth's remaining biodiversity.

SELLOUT. As I do, Keith Olbermann regards Barack Obama's wholesale concessions to the Republican agenda as a betrayal. In a scathing television editorial, Olbermann takes the President to task point by point, amassing an indictment which no amount of political spin can deny. Sadly, it is doubtful that the current administration is listening. Mr. Obama's constant appeasement of conservatives is setting the stage for political and economic disaster. The richest five percent of Americans will keep amassing greater wealth, at the expense of the poorest 95 percent. This is a national disgrace.

Satirist Andy Borowitz defines events is briefer, cruder terms. I confess to feeling torn. The President is extremely intelligent and eloquent. I want to believe Obama when he says that the most recent compromise over the Bush tax cuts and unemployment benefits was the best workable deal. But I keep hearing this insistent quacking sound. In terms of appeasement and betrayal of principles, if it looks like a duck, and walks like a duck, and sounds like a duck ........

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