Geoscience Reference
In-Depth Information
individual magpie is shot, or trapped, the person carrying this out is, in a very real
sense, not in a relationship with the individual bird, but rather in a relationship with
magpies as a population within a legislative and cultural space. The individual bird
is seen purely as 'a magpie', with no individual visibility in terms of personality,
consciousness, family relationships, and so on. In other cultural/legislative spaces,
such as Norway and parts of Asia, magpies are treated more benignly (Taylor 1990).
In the ethics of encounters between magpies and humans within these spaces, the
individual is lost within a larger cultural construction of the overall magpie
population. If magpies became a rare species within the UK and protected as an icon
of conservation, as certain raptors are, individuals would be protected. Yet, although
finding themselves within a different ethics of encounter, their treatment would still
be driven by their membership of a given population in a given space rather than as
an individual. This illustration is not meant to suggest that there is a straightforward
correlation between our treatment of (wild) animals and their population density,
but rather to show that it is relations with collectives or populations which often drive
how we treat individual non-human others. It is the spaces and the territories in
which these populations are conceptualised, moreover, that render what occurs here
a distinctly geographical process.
There are clearly instances where growing scarcity within a particular space has
not generated protection or a revaluing of a given species or population. For
example, the extinction of large land predators such as the wolf in the UK shows
that, in this case, a decline of a population in a territory did not produce a reversal
of attitudes from one of pest to one of rare species to be protected. But here again,
the relationship between any one individual wolf and the hunter killing it was
driven by an understanding of wolves imagined as a threat, the wolf as enemy, the wolf
as a collective construction. Emel (1995:708-709) describes how the wolf
was virtually eradicated in the continental United States (with one or two
exceptions) and over most of Western Europe. In England, Germany, and
France the wolf was particularly hated, and immigrants from those places to
North America came with a very negative approach to the wolf.
In contrast to this, Emel (1995:709) relates how wolves fared better 'in the Balkans
and the eastern Alps, not only because these regions were less densely populated
than other parts of Europe, but also because they lacked or never formed
institutionalised systems of incentives for extermination'. In other words, there was
and remains a distinct geography of institutionally and culturally inscribed human—
wolf relations, and within this there is a geography of (un)ethical relations between
humans and wolves which, in the end, is acted out in terms of specific encounters
between individuals. The deeply upsetting descriptions of the treatment of wolves
given in Emel (1995) is a reminder of the extent to which any individual non-
human other, and the suffering that he/she might endure, is subsumed within wider
constructions of populations or types. The same can be said of course for many,
many other animals.
Search WWH ::

Custom Search