EDITORIAL - If only sharks were trees

(The Freeman) - August 26, 2014 - 12:00am

Those whose hearts bleed for trees should take heart in the knowledge that trees apparently receive far greater protection than other living things, sharks for instance. Last Saturday, authorities in Cebu seized approximately five tons of shark fins with an estimated value of P15 million. The shipment, discovered in a 20-foot container van, was en route to Hong Kong, destined for the many restaurants that serve shark fins.

The apprehension was brief, however. The shark fins were later released after proof was shown that the sharks from where the fins were taken do not belong to any of the endangered species. What that tells us, in no uncertain terms, is that it is perfectly all right to harvest shark fins for as long as the sharks they are taken from are not endangered. Never mind if the unendangered sharks have to die in the process.

Compared to sharks, trees apparently live a much better life. There are very stringent laws against the cutting of trees. It does not matter if a person owns the land in which trees happen to grow. If he wants to cut a tree, the landowner needs to secure a permit from the authorities. Only trees that are old, sick or dying may be cut. But a permit is still required nevertheless.

And even then, it sometimes does not matter if a permit has been issued. In this country, people can appear out of nowhere to tie ribbons around trees, at times climbing them to prevent their cutting. It does not matter to these people that similar trees in the neighborhood have already fallen on houses to cause damage and threaten human life. To them, trees must never be cut for any reason.

These people claim to be environmentalists. But it appears that their concern for the environment is exclusively tied to the prevention of tree cutting. They have no similar concerns for other living things, sharks for example. As this was written, none of them has raised a howl about the slaughter of sharks for their fins. Perhaps the silence can be taken to mean it is all right to slaughter sharks for their fins so long as these sharks are not of any endangered species.

If sharks can talk, or if they had any choice at all, they probably would want to become trees. At least trees have protectors who can rush to their defense in no time at all. Even one government department is willing to take on a co-equal government department just to prevent a few trees from being cut, never mind if expert opinion says these aging trees have no more than 20 years of life left in them.

And in the meantime that we wait for 20 years until these trees topple over of their own accord, all the while crossing our fingers that they do not topple over houses to destroy them or kill their occupants, or perhaps smash passing vehicles and motorists with similar horrific consequences, all human progress in whose path these trees stand will have to wait those 20 years.

By the way, it is highly possible that before those 20 years are up, with human populations soaring and appetites for shark fins skyrocketing, there will be no more sharks of the unendangered kind left to provide for the soup bowls of the world. Only the endangered species will be left, by which time the protectors of sick and aging trees will have no more sick and aging trees to protect and thus, perchance, shift their focus on sharks, only 20 or so years late.


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