elephant silhouette sunset

China bans ivory imports

I have yet to read the entire news story but I saw the blurb at the head of the San Francisco Chronicle today and wanted to celebrate….sort of.

The government of China is corrupt; officials dealing in trade and commerce have always levied their positions into ones of personal profit. It would take much more than a totalitarian regime to stifle that instinct. It is, indeed, a right that comes with the job. In the old colonial days the Chinese “comprador” — a Portuguese word meaning “buyer” but actually a delicate interpretation of “middle man” became millionaires bringing together foreign and domestic business interests. Compradores were so influential that foreigners could well forget about establishing any kind of foothold in China if a generous commission wasn’t paid first.

Black markets the world over are comprador enterprises. My tuition at Loretto School was paid with U.S. dollars purchased on the black market.

What has all this to do with the ban on ivory? I may be excused for being cynical about the effectiveness of the ban because very likely the ban will give rise to the black market in the ivory trade. There are ways, so many porous ways–Thailand being one channel– that ivory will continue to enter the country. It will cost more, but hey, what’s a million more or less to the new manufacturing billionaires? Think of the snob value of owning forbidden gewgaws made of elephant teeth!

I hope I am very wrong. For the rapidly dwindling elephant population I hope so with all my heart.

elephant silhouette sunset

China bans ivory imports

I have yet to read the entire news story but I saw the blurb at the head of the San Francisco Chronicle today and wanted to celebrate….sort of.

The government of China is corrupt; officials dealing in trade and commerce have always levied their positions into ones of personal profit. It would take much more than a totalitarian regime to stifle that instinct. It is, indeed, a right that comes with the job. In the old colonial days the Chinese “comprador” — a Portuguese word meaning “buyer” but actually a delicate interpretation of “middle man” became millionaires bringing together foreign and domestic business interests. Compradores were so influential that foreigners could well forget about establishing any kind of foothold in China if a generous commission wasn’t paid first.

Black markets the world over are comprador enterprises. My tuition at Loretto School was paid with U.S. dollars purchased on the black market.

What has all this to do with the ban on ivory? I may be excused for being cynical about the effectiveness of the ban because very likely the ban will give rise to the black market in the ivory trade. There are ways, so many porous ways–Thailand being one channel– that ivory will continue to enter the country. It will cost more, but hey, what’s a million more or less to the new manufacturing billionaires? Think of the snob value of owning forbidden gewgaws made of elephant teeth!

I hope I am very wrong. For the rapidly dwindling elephant population I hope so with all my heart.

snow leopard

Rescuing wildlife — someone listens

Good news that I wish was disseminated more widely, because it would give us heart: The Obama administration has launched a tough plan for stopping traffickers in wildlife. U.S. intelligence agencies will track and target those who buy and sell skins and horns and tusks, a $20 billion a year industry that is bringing wild animals to the edge of extinction.

The President has called this market an “international crisis.” His plan will increase pressure on Asian countries to stop trade in these grisly items. I hope to see results before it is too late for some species.

I sign dozens of petitions a week, one purveyor being Care2Petitions, and I have noticed that some of them have brought action on the part of the Legislature. I only do not understand why Fish and Wildlife is so slow or so recalcitrant in taking the right actions.

I know I know, wolves are traditional enemies of cattle and sheep ranchers, and people who handle guns think nothing of slaughtering wolves and coyotes. A petition I signed recently stopped a “hunting contest” of wolves in the northwestern states. On another petition I added a note that I came from Italy, which has not a single wild animal left. Italians visiting here at my home get excited at seeing a squirrel.

And the Chinese, my mother’s people, with their ancient and useless beliefs in medicines derived from animals, bear bile being one. They keep bears in cages and milk them for bile. Are any Chinese reading this? Does Anything penetrate that country’s great wall of censorship? Are they all choking on their poisoned air and can’t think to see the trail to their downfall?

The Snake Woman of Ipanema

Reunions with Gil

Gil Brown, former headmaster of the American School of Rio de Janeiro, came to San Francisco as he has done every two years since 1998 to attend the AAIE (American Assoc. of Independent Educators) conference, and I traveled, as I have done since 1998, across the Bay to meet him for lunch.

He’s always been a dynamo and at 86 hasn’t changed much; still spills over with facts, details, plans, stories, jokes, and I always find myself doing the same when in his company. His wife died last year in March and I tried to keep in touch via email out of concern for his welfare.

In June he told me he had started a novel and would be finished in a couple of months between rounds of tennis and golf. The premise of “The Prison Inside Me” is pedophilia, based on a factual case of an overseas educator whom Gil knew. His name is on some website and made international news, although I did not myself read the story. And now on Tuesday, Gil tells me he has the sequel mapped out, plus the story board (a quaint term I hadn’t heard in decades) for another novel, about football. I edit whenever he needs a hand.

As usually the case, conferees wandered the lobby of the Hyatt Regency, and Gil introduced me to several, always saying “Lucille was my secretary in Rio a hundred years ago” and I always adding “And I’m still recovering. I need another hundred years.” We get the usual laughs, and then Gil has to go off to another meeting, and I head for home.

I wrote a blog (www.authorsden.com/lucillebellucci) last year or earlier about Gil and me driving off in my Beetle that had had its front seats stolen. I sat on a kindergarten chair to drive while he sat behind and held the chair from tipping over. We laughed over that on Tuesday.

red cat resting at the sun

Dogs and cats in China

It is difficult to understand the paradox of keeping dogs and cats as pets and seeing their carcasses hanging in the marketplace as meat for sale. When I was growing up in Shanghai, I knew that the southerners, the Cantonese, ate dog meat. In the old days their most lavish banquets involved imprisoning a monkey under a table with its shaved head protruding through a hole in the center. The monkey was alive while the host or honored guest smashed in its skull with a hammer and its brain scooped out.

Any comment on this practice is redundant; its depiction is adequate horror.
But one would think that segment of Chinese eating dog and cat meat — and by the way, harvesting their pelts to decorate garments — had advanced beyond it. One would think TV (even censored as it is there), though not all of the 1.3 billion population have access to it, would have brought change in thought and habit. And the manner of slaughtering the dogs and cats remains callous and cruel. In most cases the animals are not even killed first before they are skinned or boiled.

And I am not going into here their farming of bears for their “medicinal” bile, or the harvesting of rhinos for their horns. It makes me ill to think of their huge bodies reduced to flyblown carcasses and missing their horns. For that matter, the same with elephants with holes where their tusks once lived.

How to reach and convert those elements in such a populous country? How to bridge the gap between elite Chinese, the billionaires and the dog-and-cat meat consumers? All the blogs and tweets in the world will not reach the latter. The only resource is those very billionaires, who I wish would launch an interior crusade to educate and uplift their other side. But that is extremely wishful thinking, for those so-called enlightened people are the ones causing the poaching of elephants and rhinos.

Surely the need for meat can be fulfilled in other ways? It is not the custom of Chinese people to eat steaks or large quantities of meat in a meal; at home, meat is even less of a component of a meal.

I see fewer and fewer garments trimmed with fur and made in China on sale in the San Francisco Bay Area. I did spot them in the clothing store H&M and spoke to the store manager about it. A hopeless effort; what could she do about it?

I despair, and I cry to heaven.

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About The Promise

….my article of the same title on http://www.authorsden.com/lucillebellucci: although Renato shrugged, because he could not speak while intubated, to indicate he could not know if he would be able to visit me as I asked. He left me in 1998, and did reach me in September of that year, as I recount in “The Promise”.

I saw him many times beginning in 2007 and each time he strove to give me messages using gestures. He announced his presence with his special whistle. Those visits gradually lessened until they stopped altogether, and he no longer whistles. I have not seen him in several years, seemingly because his connection with earth is becoming attenuated. Having no other, that is my theory. But he is with me in other ways. The dimmer light switch continues to be his conduit, the lights over the dining table continue to change places. Some time ago I unscrewed two of the five bulbs because all five were too bright. Apparently the slight contact remaining is sufficient for him to light the two bulbs.

And the garage door — As I press the button to close it, he will stop it partway several times. The pattern changes each time. I know he is saying Drive carefully, say hello, I love you.

On two occasions in the evening, Mojo my five-month-old kitten stopped in his play and stared into space, then went to hide under the table. He has yet to learn Renato is his friend, but he will come around. Mojo’s big sister Loaner is already on familiar terms with Renato and remains serene.

The comfort of knowing he is near and waits for me is immense.

Big elephant mother and small baby

Confucius Wept

Like many people who received a first online petition and responded by signing, I find myself now signing 10 or 20 per day and glad to do it, because the organizations report on which ones succeed. The outstanding issues of wolves being delisted continue, a situation exacerbated by hunting contests in Idaho of wolves and foxes. I can barely imagine that such a culture still exists in this country, but there it is. We are no longer living in the rough wildernesses of the 17th century. Haven’t they noticed this in Idaho? The comments I add to the petitions run something like this one:

“I am an immigrant from Italy, where every single wild creature has been obliterated.”

Italians get excited at seeing a squirrel when visiting here.

To make it simple, I omit mentioning my origins in China unless I am signing a petition to China’s ambassador to the United States on behalf of elephants, whose bloody teeth are bought as bangles and bracelets by wealthy Chinese. A strong comment I made on one of those petitions had to be deleted by the organization, so I modulated my tone on the next which was nevertheless cogent. I added a title to that one: Confucius Wept.

I read that animal advocacy is on the rise in China, a movement so powerless, so ineffectual in that enormous geographical sphere that I can’t foresee any measurable results for decades. Then I read a petition charging an Asian country with boiling dogs alive for their meat and almost wept with hopelessness.