"....The truth is out there."
-- Dr. Jerome Jackson, 2002 (... & Agent Fox Mulder)
“There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, than are dreamt of in your philosophy.”
"All truth passes through 3 stages: First it is ridiculed. Second, it is violently opposed. Third, it is accepted as self-evident."
-- Arthur Schopenhauer
Wednesday, May 20, 2009
-- Ivorybill 'Politics' --
Fact is that the Ivory-billed Woodpecker is a VERY charismatic creature, as birds go, and as such, a potential cash-cow... to the person/group who first gets clear photos of it and otherwise conclusively documents its presence. That is an unspoken truth that everyone knows but doesn't say out loud. The pics alone could be worth 10's of 1000's of dollars, and then there are the book and documentary film rights, speaking engagements etc.
When the Ivory-bill was rediscovered in Cuba in the 1980's a turf war followed over who would be in charge of the search/study that ensued. Some parties were even accused of being at least as interested in the $$$ to be generated by finding the bird as in the best interests of the species itself or the sharing of information. In the last four years similar crass charges have occasionally been lobbed at Cornell and The Nature Conservancy. Their gleeful initial announcements and use of the iconic bird in bulk mail fundraising efforts, even well after regular bulletins and news releases had ceased, made for an easy target. Personally, I've never had much problem with a notion that those doing the difficult hands-on work to find, study, preserve a species ought make back some major dollars in the process. Still, agencies have not done themselves proud in this instance with their public communications (and lack thereof). Appearances can too easily take precedence over reality.
I continue to wonder just what it will mean, at this late date, if the Ivory-bill should eventually be confirmed (there have been enough sightings): if conclusively documented by official agencies what will the long delay say about the methods/techniques/planning/confidentiality employed; about the infighting, egos, debates/rifts, decision-making along the way; about the competencies of those involved? And if documented first by an independent searcher, will that speak even more harshly about the ability/wisdom of "official" agencies? I have long accounted for such delay by the sheer scarcity of the bird and expansiveness/difficulty of the habitat involved... and maybe it is that simple. Or maybe Jerry Jackson was on to something early-on in this affair when he wrote critically about "hope and the interfaces of science, conservation, and politics" (italics added) (Auk 123: 1-15, 2006).
Despite the conclusions that many have already reached, I'd contend for now at least, as Jackson himself concluded back then that "the truth is still out there."