Field of Science

Gifts of the Magi - down to two?

Exploitation and over use of natural communities threatens many species, and according to a newly published study, a valued species of antiquity: frankincense, a native of the middle east. It's a common enough story, not enough reproduction threatens the species. Over-grazing and fire destroy the seedlings so extant populations now consist of older and older individuals. While of modest value at present, in ancient times, this aromatic gum-resin was highly valued not just for use in incense but as a medicinal. A dismal scenario presents itself. Without protection, the populations continue to dwindle, but of course, scarcity may drive the price of frankincense higher and more people will want to collect the gum-resin from wounds slashed into the bark. And if this causes a higher rate of tree mortality you have a nice capitalist run-away system leading to extinction. That's the way of unregulated captialism; it can never fix such problems and this is the scary part of this. It's not that people can't live without frankincense, but this is a single example of a common enough problem. Tigers for Chinese traditional medicine, rhino horn for knife handles, or frankincense all work the same way. Why aren't any wise men around when you need them?

1 comment:

Carol Steel said...

Thanks for this. You've made very good points in a meaningful way, as usual.