Politics & Policy

How Republicans Can Save the Environment

(Duncan Noakes/Dreamstime)
A plan for saving the world’s elephants and gorillas and giraffes

When environmentalists talk about the plight of endangered species, Republicans tend to roll their eyes (the way they roll their eyes when someone orders something organic or wants to talk about ozone). But if you can overlook a little festering arrogance, you’ll find that conservationists make some good points.

Of course, traditionally, conservation belongs among conservatives, who like to conserve things. In fact, the first twelve national parks were all dedicated by Republicans, starting in 1872 with Ulysses Grant and Yellowstone. (Democrats didn’t get into the game until 1915.) Happily, no one is threatening our parks. But our animals are another story.

By “our animals,” of course, I mean mankind’s animals — the fish of the sea, the fowl of the air, each living thing that moveth on the earth. When a species of louse or a rare dung beetle goes extinct, no one cares. Understandably. But if elephants or tigers or macaws go extinct, everyone’s going to care, and with good reason. Not all animals are created equal — to hell with mosquitoes — but losing our orangutans would be like losing every copy of The Marriage of Figaro. It would be like someone spraying acid on every Rembrandt in the world, or blowing up Palmyra. Higher animals are the irreplaceable gems of the natural world; letting them die by indifference is unconscionable.

But we do anyway. And by we, I mean we the United States. While we spent 70 years keeping the world safe from Russian invasions and genocidal guerrillas, we assumed we could trust the world to handle some of the simpler things — like not shooting the very last Caspian tiger, or the last Japanese river otter (both of which have gone extinct since the end of the Second World War). Frankly, we put too much faith in everyone else. It’s time to take things into our own moon-conquering, atom-splitting hands.

RELATED: Pity the Elephants: These Giants Are Gentle and Compassionate; Poaching Them Is Savage

A couple of years ago, I wrote a piece in this spot proposing that we import some soon-to-be-extinct African and Indian elephants to the United States. I don’t want to be repetitive, but I still think that’s worth doing — we have climates for elephants; we certainly have room. Having had some time to chew it over — and having seen a story on Drudge this week about new skirmishes between India’s dwindling elephant herd and its exploding human population — I think maybe the elephant-airlift plan didn’t go far enough.

#share#The United States has, by far, the most varied climate of any country in the world. We’re the fourth-largest country, and one of the less densely populated. Let’s take advantage of all that and start importing endangered animals — not to zoos; to the great American outdoors.

Think of them as animal refugees — if we leave them where they are, they’ll all be murdered.

We won’t import anything very dangerous. Nothing man-eating. Though I think it would be a shame to lose any more tigers, I don’t want to see them eating farmers in Iowa, either. But what’s to stop us bringing in some orangutans, gorillas, elephants, African gray parrots, and blue-eyed cockatoos? Maybe some Rothschild’s giraffes? Think of them as animal refugees — if we leave them where they are, they’ll all be murdered. If we bring them here, we can give them a little protection, let them be fruitful and multiply. And we can turn some of our prairies, a few of our badlands, one or two of our forests into remarkable wilderness menageries.

Could any of you look me in the eye and say you wouldn’t enjoy seeing a herd of giraffes browsing acacia trees in East Texas?

There would be a few obstacles. Getting the animals in the first place, getting them to the right climate, making sure they won’t accidentally disrupt a local food chain. But nothing insurmountable. In fact, just a few months ago, Zimbabwe decided it could save some of its rhinos from poaching by flying them to Botswana. This would be the same thing, just on a bigger and better scale. Like filling up a 3,000-mile-wide Noah’s Ark.

Our God-given natural wonders are vanishing. If you’re worried about it, you could give money to an environmental group — but their records are mixed, and this is one of those desperate times that call for desperate measures. Write your congressman and tell him that the next time Hillary says we should take 65,000 Syrian refugees, he should suggest we start with 65 elephants.

Josh Gelernter — Josh Gelernter is a weekly columnist for NRO, and a frequent contributor to The Weekly Standard.

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