Historically, we aren’t very good at protecting flora and fauna we might wish to see saved (unless, of course, they provide us with something nutritive or commercially valuable), and we are similarly bad at ridding our environment of select organisms that we consider to be pests.
The reason for that may be because the most effective way we have of ending the existence of a species is by wiping out its habitat. See, for example, the blue iguana, which is now mostly confined to remote swaths of protected land on the eastern half of Grand Cayman.
The weakness of this strategy manifests itself when the critter in question thrives in human-altered environments. See, for example, the green iguana, whose population teems among every tree-lined neighborhood on the island.
The dilemma is this: How do we, on the one hand, protect species whose chances for survival dwindle according to the relative proximity of humans? (Ghost orchids, Cayman parrots, black coral …)
And how do we, on the other hand, control the population of species who love to live among us? (Chickens, rodents, roaches, dogs, cats …)
Under a separate, third heading, (perhaps labeled, “Supreme Indifference”), how do we respond when Nature flexes her power and dispatches flotillas of environmental invaders, such as all-devouring lionfish and all-smothering sargassum?
If you’re hoping to find definitive answers in this editorial — our apologies, we don’t have them. Neither do you. And certainly, neither does government.
In fact, the most instructive observation we may have to offer is that Nature is a complex system of causes and effects, of chain reactions and unforeseen consequences. Our opinion is that Nature, in terms of complexity, is a degree or 10 beyond the comprehension of the best and brightest seers humanity has to offer. Oftentimes, we don’t even know enough to realize when we should “be careful” and when we should “be bold.”
(For example, we can declare with some certainty that the construction of the cruise dock in George Town harbor is going to destroy any coral in the footprint of the project. However, neither we, nor anyone, can predict the outcome of the best-intended and most-expensive “mitigation” efforts, or what the secondary or tertiary impact of the loss of those sections of reef will be.)
That being said, we do know enough — about the human condition — to spot a particularly troublesome idea when it is proposed.
Last week, this newspaper reported that the National Conservation Council has approved a plan to deploy “sniffer dogs and marksmen” to hunt down and destroy invasive green iguanas on Grand Cayman and the Sister Islands.
Canine units and gunmen, tromping through the urban underbrush, winging shots at small, shifty camouflaged animals … What could possibly go wrong?
Famous last words — but probably not for Cayman’s green iguanas.