Conservation is always easier when you’re making someone else do it. But to steal a point from Randy Simms — just one of the more innocuous ones from his recent radio meltdown — putting your head in the sand and claiming for some reason that conservation doesn’t have to apply to you is plainly wrong.
The latest clash between conservation and personal entitlement is happening in Labrador, where the provincial government has put in place a five-year moratorium on hunting caribou from the George River herd.
The herd is in full collapse: recent census modelling puts the herd at fewer than 20,000, a 70 per cent drop from just three years ago.
And that’s only part of the story: July 2010 saw the herd at 74,000 animals, but even that is far, far below past numbers for the herd.
Scientists say the herd can’t sustain any amount of hunting at this time and plenty of people have agreed to stop, including the Nunatsiavut government and the NunatuKavut community council, who have agreed to a one-year halt.
The Innu, however, have a different view. They intend to continue a traditional hunt this year and have, among other things, suggested that they believe the caribou herd to be healthier than the situation the provincial government describes.
Their decision — especially from a group that maintains it has a role it respects as a steward of the land — is baffling, and has generated a fair amount of comment.
It’s worth noting, though, that it’s not a decision that’s strictly limited to one group.
Several people have made a valuable comparison: when the northern cod was in full collapse, there were still plenty of people in this province arguing they had a birthright to fish for the dinner table.
The argument was both simple and breathtaking in its self-entitlement: if someone was going to catch the last codfish, it might as well be a Newfoundlander.
Admit it: that kind of logic has to make your brain hurt. It is no better and no worse than the argument the Innu are making, that they have a traditional right to hunt caribou regardless of the condition of the herd.
With all due respect, there is a point at which that argument fails completely.
Even if you argue that there is a complete right for aboriginal groups to decide on resource management, you have to keep in mind that an individual of any group does not have the right to extinguish a species.
Anyone who blithely goes ahead and does that is not just robbing from the Earth as a whole: they are also robbing their own descendents, descendents who logically carry equal rights to their own.
And caribou scientists have been clear: if the species is not given the chance to properly recover, extinction is as close as 10 to 15 years from now.
There is a word that describes those who are willing to steal from their own children. And it’s not a pretty one.