Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Selling Earth's Treasures

by Pa Rock
Citizen Journalist

There are many ways to make a living, the art of collecting enough wealth to live on. Most of us have jobs, and most of those jobs center on manufacturing products for sale, or providing a service for sale. Another approach to making a living is crime, the act of taking something that doesn't belong to you for purposes of making money. The criminal activity might focus on stealing an object, an idea, or wealth itself. One additional way of generating wealth, often in much greater excess than what it takes for a comfortable existence, is to commandeer the Earth's treasures and natural resources and market them to the public.

I'm not saying that taking the world's oil, for instance, is necessarily a criminal activity, though it is becoming easier and easier to make that argument! There is work that goes into that activity that justifies some of the price - drilling, refining, distributing, etc. But an activity that generates that much profit (billions of dollars each quarter) is necessarily fraught with shady practices - oil lobbyists buying politicians or remodeling the home of a certain powerful Alaskan Senator, for example - or spending tons of money to make sure that alternative energy strategies don't make it to market in a meaningful way - or encouraging immoral wars to enable better pipeline routes across the middle east.

There are other groups equally concerned with selling off the planet's resources. Enterprises such as lumber companies and the fishing industry profit greatly by cutting and netting as much of their "product" as quickly as possible without any sensible plan for meeting the needs of future generations.

Today I heard of an outrageous case of the systematic theft of our natural heritage. The giant saguaro cacti of Arizona, often twenty feet or more in height, are being uprooted in the desert and wholesaled to landscapers. The expense of this operation is almost nil because it is based on theft, but the rewards are significant. Giant saguaros aren't like pretty desert bushes that can be grown en masse in greenhouses. They take many decades to grow to a decent size, and the most practical way to acquire one is to drive into the desert as night and steal it.

Recently seventeen giant saguaros were uprooted one night near Phoenix. At that rate, it won't take many years before these kings of the Arizona desert are all concealed behind the fences of suburban home owners.

The state of Arizona has come up with a plan to at least slow this criminal activity, and hopefully stop it. The idea is to insert computer chips in the cacti that are still in the desert. Then when a cactus disappears, they will be able to track its movement through the thieves, landscapers, and receiving homes.

Maybe when this system goes into operation, landscapers and homeowners will begin to ask questions about where their giant saguaros originated, and a lucrative market will dry up. The threat of jail, after all, can be a powerful motivator to behave in an honorable manner!

Man needs to move decisively to protect the planet from his evil twin. Earth's bounty belongs to us all.

1 comment:

xobekim said...

Only a fool will wander into the Sonoran Desert at night when the rattlers rule. But the risk of a fatal snake bite is out-weighed by the lure of profit.

Illegal saguaro's sell for up to $50 a foot plus an additional $100 per arm. The prized crested plants can go for $15,000 or more.

Stealing these plants violate both Arizona and Federal law. The Arizona law appears to be regulatory in nature. The Federal Lacey Act is not. There you get felony convictions and big fines.

The saguaro can live 150 to 175 years, weigh up to 7 tons, and be taken in as little as 15 minutes.

Your outrage is well placed