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Who is more guilty of driving species to extinction? Poachers or the rest of us?

I saw an excellent story in High Country News, June, 2020 issue, on the hard work by the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife officers in finding and breaking up a notorious poaching ring using modern electronic technology. The article is “Digital Shadows”, by Bryan Schatz.

The DFW game wardens and their work described in the story is just astounding, and we are fortunate to have these gutsy and passionate soldiers on the front lines of the war against poachers. They have a hard job, and we need these advocates protecting our wildlife.

At the same time, I am reminded of the saying, “when an individual is murdered, it’s a tragedy, but if a thousand die in masse, it’s a statistic”. As it applies to our wildlife, the diversity of species on our planet, each of us needs to look in the mirror, and consider our own role in the mass extinction that is now happening on our planet.

We have already trashed half the world’s insect population and there is more microplastic in our oceans than fish, destroying the fish population by choking the fish fry before they even have a chance to grow.

This means that any of us who choose to apply toxins to the land in the form of pesticides, herbicides and the like, or who choose to eat cheap, conventionally grown food purchased from big stores instead of locally produced organic food are just as guilty as the poachers.

It also means that those of us who consume single-use plastics in the form of bottles and bags and fast-food containers, without bothering to recycle them are just as guilty as the poachers.

We need our passionate soldiers, but we all need to do our part to save our biodiversity. Insects may not be glorious and picturesque in a beautiful mountain setting, but they are at the bottom of the food chain, and if they go, the birds, mammals, fish and, yes, us, will soon follow.

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