Righting Wrongs

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During a trip to Tanzania I once watched a herd of elephants march slowly across an African savannah under a blistering blue sky. The scene revealed such an immense sense of the earth as a beautiful, ancient and wild place that my own puny senses could hardly take it in.

Recently, I read that elephants had declined 30% over the last 10 years mostly due to illegal killing to remove their tusks to make into objects nobody needs. The elephant's tusk is designed to help the animal live successfully, yet here it is causing its demise, not only of individuals but possibly an entire species. If the trend continues, experts predict, that by the end of this century, the few elephants left will survive only in zoos. I can't imagine a world without elephants.

The question is the same as it always is when confronted with a painful fact. What to do? The first thing I did this time was give money to several elephant conservation groups. I talked about the issue with friends. Some, and I don't blame them, looked off into space. Others told me it was too painful to talk about. I could easily fall into the latter category and sometimes do. But then I remember it's not about my pain. It's about the pain of elephants, or tigers, or an orphaned boy in Syria, or a war-widow in Iraq. I could go on and on, as we all could.

Giving money is good but I feel I need to do more. I try to focus on the task not so much on the goal. Work the tasks one at a time and don't think about how small they are. What are the economics? Who buys poached items? How are they stopped? Write letters, make phone calls. Become a pest.

Here is my task for today. Paste this essay on my bathroom mirror. Follow my own advice. Do a little more to help an elephant, a Syrian child, a tiger, an Iraqi widow. Because if I don't, part of me disappears, too.


With a Perspective, I'm Carol Arnold.

Carol Arnold is a retired environmental planner. She lives in San Francisco.