What is life? It is the flash of a firefly in the night. It is the breath of a buffalo in the wintertime. It is the little shadow which runs across the grass and loses itself in the Sunset.
Crowfoot, Blackfoot, 1890, on his deathbed.

Whether you identify as religious, spiritual, or agnostic, the words of Crowfoot have value, meaning, and some semblance of truth. We experience life through our surroundings; from our environment, nature. We learn about life through personal experiences and the experiences of others, both living and dead. We take what we learn into our lives, they inform and shape our decisions and actions.

After 15 years in the field working to protect America’s last free roaming buffalo as a volunteer and board member for Buffalo Field Campaign (BFC), I have learned that to understand environmental conflicts, like the hazing and killing of wild migratory bison, we have to look at morals, culture, and science.

In a recent interview in Highlander magazine Ben Goldfarb asks Justin Farrell, a sociologist at the Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Studies, about his book, The Battle for Yellowstone: Morality and the Sacred Roots of Environmental Conflict. Farrell explains that “the overwhelming techno-scientific approach we take to environmental issues, while often useful, tends to discourage other approaches. But these conflicts have cultural and moral dimensions.”

In the recent Denver Post article, “Restored Bison Near Fort Collins Bolt to Prairie Open Space” (11/1/15), by Bruce Finley, we learn of a Colorado State University reproduction physiologist in Fort Collins who is growing genetically pure bison in her laboratory. Her scientific approach appears pure, i.e. save genetic material from wild Yellowstone bison condemned to slaughter and ensure lasting genetic purity for buffalo bred in Colorado.

Yet, where is the morality in killing thousands of wild, free roaming buffalo in Montana only to harvest their genetics and replicate them in a lab in Colorado? Why not just let them roam?

There is a cultural importance, not just genetic, that makes the Yellowstone buffalo unique. They are the direct descendants of the 23 individual animals that survived the mass slaughter and brought bison to the brink of extinction in the 1800’s. These buffalo have the behavioral memory of being wild and migratory. They link our current culture to our past and show us how to ensure our future. Most biologists and scientists agree that the restoration of migratory bison to the Great Plains would ensure healthy soils, robust bio-diversity, and clean waters. Wild free roaming bison are a keystone species. If allowed to roam, they would restore the American Heartland, biologically and culturally.

The wild bison of Yellowstone are often described as “disease carrying”. Truth be told, they carry the antibodies to the cattle disease brucellosis, which can kill the first calf of a buffalo or cow. However, brucellosis does not negatively affect wild bison because they are effectively inoculated in that they carry the cure. Further, wild buffalo have never transmitted brucellosis to cattle which is the big fear that drives a management plan that calls for capture, slaughter, and quarantine.

In a recent World Wildlife Fund Gift Catalogue, WWF shares the goal of their Bison Initiative; to establish at least 5 herds of 1,000 disease free and genetically pure buffalo in the Northern Great Plains by 2020. WWF works with tribal communities to re-release wild Yellowstone bison subjected to 4 years of quarantine onto reservations thus returning them to their “cultural home”. Due to misunderstood science and political pressures, WWF supports the capture each year of 100 wild bison calves. These baby buffalo are held in chain linked fence cages for 4 years where they are artificially fed and in zero contact with their family groups. Thus, there is no opportunity for them to learn wild migratory behavior.

The first quarantine cohort went to Ted Turner, however. This broke the initial agreement of the quarantine deal but continued the cultural practice of changing contracts with Native Peoples for the benefit of wealthy land owners.

If you are going to harvest the genetics from doomed wild buffalo in Yellowstone and support a quarantine program that smells of domestication, will you also join the efforts of Buffalo Field Campaign to protect and gain habitat for our only wild, free roaming migratory buffalo? Can you support good science, morally-based decisions, and the cultural significance that the Yellowstone bison represent by helping BFC to stop the slaughter?

Please, Join Us in the Field!

For the buffalo,

Justine Sanchez
Vice President, BFC Board of Directors

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About The Author

Justine Sanchez

Justine Sanchez is the Vice President, Buffalo Field Campaign Board of Directors

49 Responses to Mistreatment and Slaughter of Wild Migratory Bison: Cultural and Moral Considerations

  1. Ida Lupines says:

    Thank you for this. Slaughter of bison was immoral and unethical back then, and it is unconscionable now, to continue it when we are patting ourselves on the back because of how enlightened we are, and how we want to make amends for our awful treatment of our Native peoples; not just talk or throwing money at the issues.

    It is my sincerest hope that bison will roam again on as much of their former ranges as possible, for the bison to carry on and the beauty of having them, but also for our Native peoples and their well-being. And for everyone’s.

    Disease carriers to end all disease carriers were Europeans. It must have appeared to be visitors from hell back then. 🙁

  2. Theo Chu says:

    IMO “……the big fear that drives a management plan…” is that the public will get used to the idea of bison on the public lands outside YNP and they will like having them there. Fear of brucellosis is a convenient excuse.

  3. rork says:

    Better than earlier BFC stuff I read here.
    Might not Brucellosis-free herds be better PR, and make the road smoother – even if worries about cows are false fears? Is it not true that it’s probably not bad for bison either? The moral scales are not that easy to read for me, so I appreciate help.

    • Thanks for your reply and questions. The moral scales have become clearer to me as a consequence of regular time spent in West Yellowstone documenting the abuse handed out to the buffalo. And, I appreciate that it can be confusing.
      Brucellosis does not negatively affect bison, nor elk, nor other wildlife who carry it. It does negatively affect domestic cattle. It seems more effective to inoculate cattle as there are vaccines and most cattle are vaccinated regularly.
      A focus on brucellosis free bison (or other wildlife) is bad in that it brings in heavy handed management, like quarantine and capture, on a perfectly healthy free roaming population. Let’s focus on brucellosis free cows via vaccination and Let the Buffalo Roam!

  4. Joanne Favazza says:

    There are millions of acres of public lands surrounding YNP where the buffalo can roam. Yet ranchers selfishly want that land for themselves so that buffalo can’t compete with their cattle for grass. (The brucellosis argument is entirely bogus. There has never been one single case of buffalo transmitting brucellosis to livestock). But however much they make think so, ranchers are not entitled to use our public lands as they see fit.

    Instead of being needlessly and brutally slaughtered, buffalo should be permitted to follow their ancient migratory routes outside of the park to ensure their survival, as they have been doing for thousands and thousands of years.

    I would like to see Yellowstone Superintendent Wenk and other govt.officials begin to advocate for more buffalo habitat, instead of pandering to ranching interests. Public land belongs to all of us, thus we all have a say regarding how those lands should be “managed.”

    If the federal govt. doesn’t have the guts to stand up to the livestock industry, it’s up to the rest of us to start demanding an end to public lands ranching, which is destroying wildlife and wild habitat on our public lands. Non-native livestock should never take precedent over native wild species. I’m sick and tired of my tax dollars being used to kill native wildlife!

    • Gary Humbard says:

      Yellowstone NP does NOT want to send bison to slaughter and probably does not want them “hunted” (slaughtered) by the tribes but its hands are tied as this is a habitat issue outside the park.

      “It’s up to the rest of us to start demanding an end to public lands ranching”. Exactly, and the best way to do this is monetarily support NGO’s like WWF and the Land Conservation Fund that purchase the rights to remove livestock from public lands when there are conflicts and willing sellers. Donations can be dedicated solely to the purchase of conservation easements.

      To expect agencies like the USFS and BLM who manage the lands using multiple use management of which grazing is a use, removing livestock from permitted lands without justifiable reasons would be a violation of agency policy.

      “Public land belongs to all of us, thus we all have a say regarding how those lands should be “managed.” Correct and if a member of the public thinks there are justifiable reasons (i.e. environmental degradation resulting in violation of laws or grazing permit) livestock use should be altered, he or she should report it to the local office and if that doesn’t resolve the issue, take it to a higher level. Even though these lands are under a grazing permit, any member of the public has the right to access them as long as they do not trespass on private land.

      • Joanne Favazza says:

        Public lands ranching is the elephant in the room that no one wants to talk about–including many mainstream environmental groups.

        Public lands ranching causes massive damage to wildlife and wild habitat, and ranchers lease our public lands dirt cheap for the privilege of causing this damage. In addition, millions of animals are killed every year by the federal agency “Wildlife Services” in order to appease the livestock industry. All of this destruction is paid for by our tax dollars, and I for one am sick of it.

        Good luck reporting environmental degredation caused by ranching “to the local office” or “to a higher level.” You’re kidding, right? Politicians, govt. officials, and many who sit on the bench are deep in the pockets of the livestock industry–always have been, and always will be.

        A massive public outcry is needed to break the stranglehold that ranchers have on govt. officials at the local, state, and federal levels. Only then will our public lands begin to recover, allowing wildlife and other native species to thrive again.

        And Yellowstone officials are absolutely complicit in the bison slaughter. I suggest that you visit Buffalo Field Campaign’s website to learn more about this issue.

      • Thanks for your reply. The truth is YNP along with USFS are integral members of the Inter-agency Bison Management Plan (IBMP), the governing body which signs off on all hazing, capture, slaughter, and quarantine operations. To say their hands are tied is not entirely true however it does demonstrate how powerful cattle interests are in MT that even YNP and USFS have to “cow tow” (pun intended)to them.
        While I appreciate the vision of org’s like WWF to purchase land for easements, I think they sell themselves short in their willingness to support quarantine and slaughter. They could support more bison friendly policies.
        Finally, Buffalo Field Campaign works tirelessly & with much success to remove grazing allotments, build local coalitions, lobby congress, work with native tribes, change state laws, and defend public lands from over grazing, logging, and resource extraction.
        It seems like BFC is your kind of organization! Come join us in the field!

    • Nancy says:

      An excellent link Ida, especially for those that just want to “hunt stuff” coming hunting season out here in parts of the west.

      “Jet” is just one of an estimated 5,000 deer that annually migrate from the highlands of the Hoback Basin region in summer to the scrubland of the Red Desert in winter. It’s the longest known migration of mule deer in the United States, and probably the most studied.

      For the doe, the 50-some miles she had traveled were marked by mountains, rivers, plains, and dozens of man made obstacles like fences and roads.

      To humans… the area is a patchwork of United States Forest Service land, Bureau of Land Management parcels, state and private lands”

      I often wonder, living in migration routes, how many hunters actually give thanks for the availability of Jet and her species?

      • Ida Lupines says:

        Thank you Nancy – I thought it was fascinating.

        Where will it all end? We’ve taken so much land over already, and still we want more. With the sage grouse for example, extraction industries and ranching are complaining loudly about how protection of habitat will affect their businesses and livelihoods, but in ten years from now it will be the same complaints.

        It’s so disruptive to migrating animals – but then we conveniently blame the predators for low deer and elk population numbers, specifically wolves.

        From the WWP below, there’s a wonderful video of sage grouse expert Dr. Clait Braun frustrated by these constraints – and it really is sad to see a lek turned into a uranium tailings and discarded, rusting appliances dump!

  5. Yellowstone Bison come from two sources. The 23 Bison that escaped the hunters by hiding out in the Pelican Valley and the 21 Bison that were introduced in 1902 into the Lamar Valley from the Goodnight herd of plains bison. The offspring of these two herds are what make up the two remaining populations in Yellowstone today. Most of the animals being shot or captured below Gardiner are the offspring of the introduced herd of plains bison. The park biologists are trying to eliminate the populations of introduced Brook Trout and Lake Trout,shouldn’t they be doing the same to the introduced Bison????

    • Ralph Maughan says:

      Larry Thorngren,

      I don’t think there is enough genetic variation in the Yellowstone bison population to think of creating a population out of the 23 original bison. In fact, I wonder about the genetic effects of cropping the population by so many almost every winter?

    • Kathleen says:

      “A separate study by Wilson and Strobeck, published in Genome, was done to define the relationships between different herds of bison in the United States and Canada, and to determine whether the bison at Wood Buffalo National Park in Canada and the Yellowstone Park bison herd were possibly separate subspecies, and not Plains bison. Some people had suggested that the Yellowstone Park bison were actually either of the B. b. athabascae (wood buffalo) subspecies, or else that they were of an unspecified ‘mountain’ subspecies. In the study, it was determined that the wood buffalo park bison were actually cross breeds between plains bison and wood bison, but that their predominant genetic makeup was in fact that of the expected “wood buffalo” (B. b. athabascae).[7] However, the Yellowstone Park bison herd were pure plains bison (B. b. bison), and not any of the other previously suggested subspecies.” https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Yellowstone_Park_bison_herd#Genetics

    • Check out these two articles on bison genetics and the importance of the Yellowstone herds!

      Molecular look at Yellowstone bison reveals distinctions, histories
      Billings Gazette

      Researcher says Yellowstone bison hold key to species’ genetic future
      Casper Star Tribune

  6. snaildarter says:

    I assume Larry is joking, considering all the damage lake trout are doing to the ecology of the Yellowstone lake drainage vs the non-damage of mixing the last remaining bison herds. I’m not even sure why 44 animals is a viable gene pool but it seems to have worked. Not sure how you’d tell the populations apart away but even if you could wouldn’t you be condemning the plains bison to extinction.

  7. I don’t think that the plains bison in Yellowstone should be all killed off. However, I think the main concern should be the effect the bison population has on the overall ecology of Yellowstone. I visit Yellowstone for a month every fall and in my opinion there are more Bison in Yellowstone than the range can support. Overgrazing is overgrazing whether it is done by Elk, Cattle or Bison.

  8. WM says:

    Bison are migratory animals. They need to migrate and follow seasonal food supplies and nominally milder weather. They have no winter range adjacent to Yellowstone. Too bad the guys that made gazillions of dollars off from computer hardware, software or business based on computer technology don’t spend a little more of their wealth in helping obtain some winter range. Instead they spend it outside the US (Gates in Africa paving the way for even greater human population growth), studying the brain or pissing it away on goofy interests (Paul Allen),getting into new businesses ventures like space (Bezos at Amazon), keeping their billions and doing nothing to help humanity (Steve Jobs before he died who never was much of a philanthropic giver), and many more. After all, when you look at where the money came from it is ubiquitous computers that everybody bought and the profit generated was really kind of a tax that the business owners are now putting to pet causes.

    Encourage these business heavy-weights to give a few hundred million for range expansion, and try to get some legislation for federal matching money with the heavy breathers in DC. It is long past time to expand Yellowstone, or otherwise create adjacent reserves that include some winter range.

    And, heck, if the City of Fort Collins, CO can set some money aside for a bison reserve north of town and work with Colorado State University geneticists, as well as the range ecologists at the Warner School of Natural Resources, why can’t there be some other efforts elsewhere on an even larger scale?

    While working with the tribes is a good moral, cultural and PR thing, it needs more. Maybe some of those rich tribes with casino cash cow operations ought to contribute to, instead of getting tribal members into Cadillac Escalades or big screen TV’s.

    • Ida Lupines says:

      Yes. I wonder about this a lot, why the gazillionaires don’t do more.

    • Nancy says:

      “It is long past time to expand Yellowstone, or otherwise create adjacent reserves that include some winter range”

      + 1 WM.

    • rork says:

      Ordinary people might contribute money to a fund – that might do more than anything else to get corporate types to add some money.
      You might want to reconsider your thoughts on Africa, or at least not reveal those thoughts in public. I’ll spare everyone the long version of that.

      • Mareks Vilkins says:

        You might want to reconsider your thoughts on Africa, or at least not reveal those thoughts in public.


      • WM says:

        “You might want to reconsider your thoughts on Africa, or at least not reveal those thoughts in public.”

        Why? I tend to believe some issues need public discussion, even though it ruffles some feathers. I also believe a comment made years ago by former law professor, and then Colorado Governor Richard Lamm has worth in discussion. Though some have taken the comment out of context, he said, “Old people have a duty to die.”

        When we think of the health care resources to maintain the old and dying in the last one or two years of life, it puts it in context. And, medicine has come up with ever more ways of sustaining it, all in an effort to prolong the inevitable – the moral choices are tough. And we ought to discuss these things. Of course, Dick Lamm may have a different view now that he is 80 something (but maybe in very good health).

        • Nancy says:

          “Old people have a duty to die.”

          I’d take offense with that comment WM simply because there are no good, decent measures in place yet, in the human species, to allow the old to say “good bye” when they want to, with dignity.

          • Nancy says:

            “In a 2010 interview with Sanjay Gupta, Kevorkian stated an objection to the status of assisted suicide in Oregon, Washington, and Montana. At that time, only in those three states was assisted suicide legal in the United States, and then only for terminally ill patients.

            To Gupta, Kevorkian stated, “What difference does it make if someone is terminal? We are all terminal.”[21] In his view, a patient did not have to be terminally ill to be assisted in committing suicide, but did need to be suffering. However, he also said in that same interview that he declined four out of every five assisted suicide requests, on the grounds that the patient needed more treatment or medical records had to be checked”


          • WM says:

            Well, Nancy, I know we are going off topic, but I would say society is coming closer to dealing with the issue (voluntarily of course). Ever hear of a POLST form (Physicians Order on Life Sustaining Treatment), or a living will? Both deal with this proactively by giving care givers directions when you cannot speak directly to them. And are, I am pretty sure, after Lamm’s statement years ago. I personally think the guy is a bit of a visionary.

            And, then there is the assisted suicide school of thought taking it yet one step further.

        • rork says:

          Short version: bad public health does not help with economy, education, and (partly as a result) probably not even reducing population growth. United Nations Population Fund stuff.

          • WM says:

            Ah, but increasing birth and first year survival rates and improved health conditions do increase population (maybe offset some by birth control education). Like I said, it is a complex moral question, but still needs discussion in the full light of day (not too politically correct for honest dialog seeking solutions).

            And, as you will see from the link below (referencing UN population projections), Africa will be, BY FAR, the main contributor to population growth over the planning horizon of the next 85 years to 2100. And, with that, there will be expectations of the same resource consumptive lifestyle as those in further developed countries AND Europe. Will a pandemic or some natural or man-made catastrophy alter this projection?


            So, again back to my point that Gates could spend a nominal amount of his massive wealth on charitable causes a little closer to home by preserving/conserving some wildlife habitat. I am a bit selfish when it comes to our home country. Hey, but Gates is an urban guy, with a guilt complex, who lives in a gigantic friggin’ house on an exclusive residence island compound on Lake Washington, in Seattle/Bellevue.

            • JB says:

              Well it’s taken longer than he thought, but it seems Paul Ehrlich’s predictions are finally coming to pass.


              • Mareks Vilkins says:


                Tensions between nations are also high. Since 1975, Turkey’s dam and hydropower construction has cut water flow to Iraq by 80 percent and to Syria by 40 percent. Syria and Iraq have accused Turkey of hoarding water.


                Peak oil, climate change and pipeline geopolitics driving Syria conflict

                Between 2002 and 2008, the country’s total water resources dropped by half through both overuse and waste.

                • Mareks Vilkins says:


                  “We looked at the set of causes that were being discussed as potential reasons for price increases and showed mathematically that none of them could be large enough except two: corn to ethanol conversion and speculation,” Yaneer Bar-Yam, NECSI’s founding president, told me in an email. “We then constructed a quantitative model of the impact of those two remaining causes which fit the price behavior very accurately.”

                  Essentially, financial speculation caused the abrupt spikes, while ethanol conversion was driving a slow background rise in food prices.

                  Note that there are localized reasons for specific conflicts, too—it’s been fairly well established that the drought that wracked Syria in the years leading up to its civil war (and which many argue was exacerbated by climate change) drove erstwhile farmers into urban areas, and the subsequent crowding and poverty set the stage for conflict.

            • Mareks Vilkins says:

              there will be expectations of the same resource consumptive lifestyle as those in further developed countries AND Europe.

              Worldwide inequality

              Flowing from wealth and income inequality (combining to create the powerful elite), is the inequitable use and distribution of natural resources; water and food,minerals, and we could add knowledge, information, technology and skills. The United States, for example, with a mere 5% of the world’s population, uses 30% of natural resources; the 25% of people living in developed countries use 80% of the world’s non-fuel minerals.  Many of these are found in poor developing countries, which have little or no control over their resources and on the whole benefit little from their extraction and sale. Not only do the wealthy countries usurp and waste 80% of the world’s resources, but according to a United Nations (UN) report, their “voracious consumption of resources cannot be sustained.”
              Worldwide it is estimated that the wealthiest 10% owns 85% of global household wealth. The UC Atlas of Global Inequality  states that the “three richest people in the world have assets that exceed the combined gross domestic product of the 47 countries with the least GDP,” and reports that “The richest 2% of the world population own more than 51% of the global assets”.
              At the other more densely populated, less perfumed end of the scale, Global Issues  report that: almost half the world’s people (over 3.5 billion) live on less than $2.50 a day; and 80% live on less than $10 a day.
              over 20% of the world’s population (that’s 1.4 billion people) live on less than $1.25 a day, 75 cents below the official World Bank poverty threshold; UNICEF states that 22,000 children (under the age of five; if it was 6, or 7, the numbers would be even higher) die every day due to poverty related issues. They “die quietly in some of the poorest villages on earth, far removed from the scrutiny and the conscience of the world. Being meek and weak in life makes these dying multitudes even more invisible in death.”
              Of the two billion children in the world, half are currently living their lives in extreme poverty, with limited or no access to clean water or sanitation, health care and education worth the name. The greatest concentrations of people living below the $2 a day poverty line are to be found in rural areas where three in every four are to be found. Life is little better in the cities where over half the world’s 7.2 billion population now live, one in three of whom live in a slum.

              • Mareks Vilkins says:

                It’s not overpopulation that causes climate change, it’s overconsumption
                Africa’s population growth is often linked to ecological risk – yet the real danger lies in the west’s infinite appetite for resources
                Of course, you might argue the world is already overpopulated. Given the way we plunder its resources, that seems so. But why do we blame the poor in Africa for having babies when the real issue is overconsumption closer to home? It is the ravenous demands of the rich world that is enlarging the human footprint on our planet – pumping greenhouse gases into the air, polluting the oceans, trashing forests and the rest. Any further rise in numbers of poor people will barely figure in that.
                let’s not blame them for the state of the planet. That is down to us – the overconsumers, whose numbers are largely stable but whose appetites seem infinite.

                • Mareks Vilkins says:

                  Consumption Dwarfs Population
                  as Main Environmental Threat
                  It’s overconsumption, not population growth, that is the fundamental problem: By almost any measure, a small portion of the world’s people — those in the affluent, developed world — use up most of the Earth’s resources and produce most of its greenhouse gas emissions.
                  the world’s richest half-billion people — that’s about 7 percent of the global population — are responsible for 50 percent of the world’s carbon dioxide emissions. Meanwhile the poorest 50 percent are responsible for just 7 percent of emissions.
                  sustaining the lifestyle of the average American takes 9.5 hectares, while Australians and Canadians require 7.8 and 7.1 hectares respectively; Britons, 5.3 hectares; Germans, 4.2; and the Japanese, 4.9. The world average is 2.7 hectares. China is still below that figure at 2.1, while India and most of Africa (where the majority of future world population growth will take place) are at or below 1.0.
                  The United States always gets singled out. But for good reason: It is the world’s largest consumer. Americans take the greatest share of most of the world’s major commodities: corn, coffee, copper, lead, zinc, aluminum, rubber, oil seeds, oil, and natural gas. For many others, Americans are the largest per-capita consumers. In “super-size-me” land, Americans gobble up more than 120 kilograms of meat a year per person, compared to just 6 kilos in India, for instance.
                  Virtually all of the extra 2 billion or so people expected on this planet in the coming 40 years will be in the poor half of the world. They will raise the population of the poor world from approaching 3.5 billion to about 5.5 billion, making them the poor two-thirds.
                  those extra two billion people would raise the share of emissions contributed by the poor world from 7 percent to 11 percent.
                  Look at it another way. Just five countries are likely to produce most of the world’s population growth in the coming decades: India, China, Pakistan, Nigeria, and Ethiopia. The carbon emissions of one American today are equivalent to those of around four Chinese, 20 Indians, 30 Pakistanis, 40 Nigerians, or 250 Ethiopians.
                  Even if we could today achieve zero population growth, that would barely touch the climate problem — where we need to cut emissions by 50 to 80 percent by mid-century. Given existing income inequalities, it is inescapable that overconsumption by the rich few is the key problem, rather than overpopulation of the poor many.

                • Mareks Vilkins says:

                  Well, first let’s be clear about the scale of the difference involved. A woman in rural Ethiopia can have ten children and her family will still do less damage, and consume fewer resources, than the family of the average soccer mom in Minnesota or Munich. In the unlikely event that her ten children live to adulthood and have ten children of their own, the entire clan of more than a hundred will still be emitting less carbon dioxide than you or I.
                  And second, it won’t happen. Wherever most kids survive to adulthood, women stop having so many. That is the main reason why the number of children born to an average woman around the world has been in decline for half a century now. After peaking at between 5 and 6 per woman, it is now down to 2.6.
                  Far from ballooning, each generation will be smaller than the last. So the ecological footprint of future generations could diminish
                  an extra child in the United States today will, down the generations, produce an eventual carbon footprint seven times that of an extra Chinese child, 46 times that of a Pakistan child, 55 times that of an Indian child, and 86 times that of a Nigerian child.

                • WM says:


                  Sometimes your posts are so filled with inaccuracies and distortions in your effort to advocate a position it is disgusting. You fail to mention the dramatic impacts to increased consumption by the rapidly growing middle classes in China, India, the Middle East, Russia and elsewhere, ESPECIALLY AFRICA (see: http://www.uhy.com/the-worlds-fastest-growing-middle-class/ .

                  Futhermore, Nigeria, Africa’s oil rich and largest economy (though for now not much of a middle class) is expected to be THE DRIVING FORCE BEHIND AFRICA’S dramatic population increase (see UN projections referenced above, including expanding consumption.

                  You just love to pee on Americans, but what else is a Latvian malcontent expected to do? Do remember it is Europeans/Americans, for good or bad with all of their pollution and catalysts for economic/social change, have brought to the world most of the technology that has driven up survival rates in poor countries. They have also brought the technology of armed conflict beyond spears, bows and arrows/machetes as well – all for the bad.

                  It is far more complicated than your narrow and it would appear frenetic (7 in row, really?)posts suggest.

                • Mareks Vilkins says:

                  Nigeria, Africa’s oil rich and largest economy (though for now not much of a middle class) is expected to be THE DRIVING FORCE BEHIND AFRICA’S dramatic population increase

                  first of all are yale.edu/guardian etc based in Latvia? who are reading yale.edu/Guardian – those who pee on Americans and are nothing else than Latvian malcontents??

                  chill out, lawyerish yokel who even cannot score his supposed annual elk in ID

                  2) yokel, how big are Nigeria’s oil reserves & what about this “almost half of the country’s population is 14 years old or younger”?? Nigeria’s oil reserves will be in production till 2100 even at the current rate of extraction / production ??



                  3) it is Europeans/Americans … have brought to the world most of the technology that has driven up survival rates in poor countries

                  so why are you complaining about Nigeria then, [middle-class] yokel?


                  4) for starters read smth about The History of Science & subsidies for hi-tech and the dissonance between US foreign / domestic policies and what American majority prefer


                  what a dumb-ass yokel …

                • Yvette says:

                  Mareks, these are old articles from the Guardian. You’ve probably read them in the past.

                  Whether the corruption lies with the Nigerian government, Shell Oil, ExxonMobile or all of them one thing that isn’t debatable is that the ones losing the most are those with the smallest voices. It’s the people who live(ed) off of the land and water and the non-human species that lived in those habitats that pay the biggest price. For all the brilliant life extending technology of the wonderful Western world someone somewhere is paying a price. We Americans are typically spoiled and insulated from the severe havoc our technology has thrust upon people who have lived for eons without needing that technology. Indigenous people across the globe are the ones paying the biggest price, whether they are fishermen in Nigeria, tribal people who still live(d) in the jungles of Brazil, or Sami Reindeer herders who are losing their way of life.


                  “Forest and farmland were now covered in a sheen of greasy oil. Drinking wells were polluted and people were distraught. No one knew how much oil had leaked. “We lost our nets, huts and fishing pots,” said Chief Promise, village leader of Otuegwe and our guide. “This is where we fished and farmed. We have lost our forest. We told Shell of the spill within days, but they did nothing for six months.””


                  There is so much knowledge that will die when the world’s Indigenous people are forced out of the forests (so we can extract their “resources”) and into the slums of the cities. By the time we finish extracting the resources they will be forced out of the forests and into the slums because they can’t nurse a baby on oil. The Sami can’t herd reindeer when the snow and ice disappears.

                  My God, where would these poor heathens be without our brilliant western technology to bestow them with a great ‘quantity’ of life?

                • Mareks Vilkins says:


                  personally speaking I’ve read “Where Vultures Feast” and I know a thing or two about the Indigenous people @ the Niger’s delta

                  2) you must be aware of the bias of WM – so it’s no surprise that when he opens his filthy mouth then some remarks about “let’s hope hundreds of M Africans (especially in Nigeria or Congo DR)will be wiped out by some disease/epidemics” (he’s too careful to admit nuclear bombing of Nigeria straightforwardly – let’s pray for some divine intervention, folks…)

                  … when US economic developement was based on slave labor!!! in those times cotton industry was equal to oil industry now … and US slaves were coming from Nigeria’s area!!

                  well, I would love to see that spectacle when lawyerish yokel from Seattle starts to educate Nigerian locals about how wonderful it would be for ‘the common good’ that hundreds of M black lives would be wiped out by some epidemic

                  WM preaching about the Final Solution – what a joke


                  let’s not forget that Nigeria lived in walled cities with broad avenues & had a democratic system of urban administration with a mayor and municipal council elected by citizens assembly before 9th Century (that is, before the Slave Trade had begun)

                  3) How big really is Africa’s middle class?http://africanbusinessmagazine.com/region/continental/how-big-really-is-africas-middle-class/

                  In a frank interview, the [Nestle]company’s chief executive in equatorial Africa, Cornel Krummenacher, admitted that the company had mistakenly concluded that Africa was set to become “the next Asia” and found the middle class to be “extremely small” and “not really growing”.

                  But Nestlé is not the only major corporation that appears to have lost money based on an inflated estimation of the African middle-class market. Last year, drinks multinational Diageo attempted to ‘premiumise’ its market in Nigeria, shifting its focus to promoting pricier spirits. However, the strategy proved problematic, and when the company’s Nigeria sales dropped by 9% in 2014, Diageo promptly shifted back to its traditional strategy of driving Guinness sales. Revenue figures have since recovered.

                  THEN ABOUT WM’s bullshit stats about Africa’s ‘middle-class”:

                  The AfDB divided the African middle class into three sub-categories: 60% of the so-called middle class went into the first category – individuals with a consumption level of $2-$4 per day. They labelled this group the “floating class”, with individuals within it extremely vulnerable to falling below the poverty line of $2 per day if struck by an unforeseen disaster, expense or unexpected rise in the cost of living.
                  A further 25% came under the second category: the lower middle class who live just above subsistence level, consuming $4-$10 per day. This category of individuals consumes and saves for a limited selection of inexpensive non-essential goods. And just 14% were definable in terms of the third category: upper middle class, with a consumption level of $10-$20 per day.

                • Mareks Vilkins says:

                  I mean, when lawyerish clown from Seattle starts to educate Nigerian locals about how wonderful it would be for ‘the common good’ that hundreds of M black lives would be wiped out by some epidemic – then Indigenous people would also be wiped out by that epidemic

                • Mareks Vilkins says:

                  scientific knowledge about ecology was gained after the Industrial Revolution reached its full steam momentum – so now to offer some racist ‘solutions’ to Baby Boom in the 3rd World countries is a little tacky, to say the least


                  Nigeria Reconsiders Its Oil Contracts

                  Nigeria is in a quandary when it comes to energy. Its onshore and shallow-water oil reserves are maturing, and increasingly being eclipsed by the potential of the country’s deep-water oil reserves. Yet, having neither the technological know-how nor the finances to develop deep-water wells, the Nigerian government relies on international oil and natural gas companies such as ExxonMobil and Shell to exploit its offshore fields.

                  Nigeria’s oil production can be loosely grouped into three areas: onshore production, shallow-water production and deep-water production. Each area produces roughly one third of Nigeria’s oil. However, onshore production is waning as the most important fields reach the final stages of their lives. As a result, IOCs are starting to withdraw from the depleted onshore developments. Royal Dutch/Shell finalized a divestment plan in March, and Total completed a similar plan in the same month, to the tune of $1 billion. In July, Eni announced that it was considering a divestment of its onshore fields in Nigeria.

                  the future of Nigeria’s oil production lies offshore. Nigeria’s strategy is to allow smaller, more flexible, Nigerian oil companies to cultivate the remaining onshore developments while IOCs concentrate on megaprojects offshore

                  the royalty rate charged to IOCs is dependent on the water depth. Anything deeper than 1,000 meters (3,300 feet) is charged at 0 percent. The profit tax rate for IOCs in profit-sharing agreements on deep-water ventures is 50 percent, as opposed to the 85 percent rate common to the joint venture contracts typically used onshore.
                  In the 1990s, when the deep-water oil industry was still in its infancy, oil prices were low, around $20 per barrel or less.

                  In 2012, it was estimated that Nigeria could gain around $5 billion in additional revenue through renegotiation of its deep-water contracts.

                  Beyond the issue of technological capability, the financial resources to develop the high-cost/long-term projects that deep-water resources require simply are not available. The participation of IOCs is not only a matter of necessity, but also a well known fact to all. Regrettably for Nigeria, several events have deterred long-term investment in Nigeria’s oil and natural gas industry, as reflected by Shell’s decision in April to delay its proposed $12 billion Bonga South West project. Besides low oil prices and the uncertainty surrounding existing contracts, there is the status of the Petroleum Industry Bill and how the country will continue to evolve politically under Buhari’s tenure.
                  Nigeria must continue to walk the fine line between appeasing oil companies and increasing its revenue. This will require a lengthy negotiation phase with the IOCs.


                  BOTTOM LINE : Nigeria’s teenagers will became notorious & glutonous middle-class with consumption rates comparable to those of the US or Europe???

                  give me a break, Seattle’s clown

                • WM says:


                  Once again you go off the rails, and your reading comprehension of my posts are largely a fail. The point is future growth, future resource consumption and future expectations that expand a middle class in parts of Africa, where population increase is expected to expand rapidly. The future of the expanding middle class (however defined) is expected in about 10 years, and Nigeria’s human population will be greater than the US. Governments don’t often mature as the same rate as their populations and economies, surely to bring risk of more unrest in parts of Africa (count the working democracies thus far for a clue). I said nothing about a “final solution” other than raise a sliver of doubt as futures are not certain (ie. the nipped in the bud ebola scare from exclusively European/Western intervention that might not be so successfully to contain some other virus of unknown cure which emerges in Africa or is vectored world-wide within days).

                  And, cool off the name calling sport, it demeans you even further.

                • Mareks Vilkins says:

                  The point is future growth, future resource consumption and future expectations that expand a middle class in parts of Africa, where population increase is expected to expand rapidly

                  1) it is your reading comprehension which is in tatters

                  2) individual with $2-4 income per day will not qualify for middle-class with scary consumption rate

                  3)Absolute poverty in Nigeria (earning less than a dollar a day) has increased from 55% in 2004 to 61% in 2014 and in contrast; there are almost 16,000 millionaires currently living in Nigeria & annual GDP growth has averaged 8% over the last decade and yet poverty rates have remained stationary (64% in 2004; 63% in 2010).

                  Even with its abundant oil resources amounting to $80+ billion in annual revenue for the country, poverty is increasingly becoming a major issue for a vast amount of the population. Under these conditions, many inhabitants are forced to live in slums with limited access to food, education, electricity and clean water.


                  According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, out of its 2.3 million barrels daily OPEC quota, Nigeria consumed barely 286,000 barrels domestically in 2011, leaving 2 million barrels for exports. That means only 12.4% of its daily production is consumed locally. Indeed, in the under-developed Nigerian economy of today, the primary source of energy is not oil but wood. However, in the foreseeable future, virtually all of Nigeria’s oil output would be needed domestically as a result of increased economic activity. At that juncture, Nigeria’s income from oil may be zero or, at best, negligible.


                  Bottom line: In Nigeria (or Africa in general) inequality or poverty is rampant therefore population growth is not related to the middle-class’s growth.

                  Therefore the reality is & will continue to be as follows: The United States with a mere 5% of the world’s population uses 30% of natural resources; the 25% of people living in developed countries use 80% of the world’s non-fuel minerals.

                  The carbon emissions of one American today are equivalent to those of around four Chinese, 20 Indians, 30 Pakistanis, 40 Nigerians, or 250 Ethiopians.

                  And an extra child in the United States today will, down the generations, produce an eventual carbon footprint seven times that of an extra Chinese child, 46 times that of a Pakistan child, 55 times that of an Indian child, and 86 times that of a Nigerian child.

                • WM says:


                  You make grossly false assumptions. First you assume that footprints in developing countries with a growing middle class remain the same. They don’t.

                  Second, you assume the footprint of Americans remains the same, and from what I understand it is gradually reducing, though it should be reduced dramatically and faster.

                  Third, most of America’s population growth comes directly or indirectly from legal and illegal in-migration or their progeny. So, I suppose we could just stop that and take some of the heat off, eh? All, these new folks coming in, having more kids than they can afford and contributing to the gluttony- even asylum seekers and refugees from Africa or the Middle East, as well as China and other places.

                  And, back to the point, Africa with some developing economies and improved health conditions WILL BE the driving force of population growth according to the UN, and hence greater demands on resources -whether it is food, oil, pressure on largely unstable political systems, and with a growing middle class – however defined by economists (not you, Mareks).


                  I’m done with this absurd tangential discussion to the original topic thread. Let’s just agree to disagree and move on.

                • Mareks Vilkins says:

                  with a growing middle class – however defined by economists

                  like those ‘economists’ who were promoting the housing bubble?

                  that’s hype – not economic analysis

                  here one can find explanation / background to those fancy statistics WM is trying to spread around:

                  African middle class: myth or fact?

                  “These statistical earthquakes, while good news, have shattered trust in Africa’s numbers.
                  Shanta Devarajan, chief economist of the World Bank’s Africa region, called it “Africa’s statistical tragedy”

                  So what are we left with? We went from a middle class that comprises 34 percent of Africa’s population to one of 1 to 2 percent.
                  But this tiny group is not middle class: they are rich households that have the fastest-growing incomes. Ultimately, what we are seeing is not a pyramid bulging in the middle as in the picture drawn by the African Development Bank.

                  Ghana and Nigeria’s GDP ballooned following the introduction of new benchmark years for estimating GDP in 2010 and this year.
                  How confident can one be about a 7 percent growth rate in a country like Nigeria when almost half of the economy was missing in the official baseline?

                  The most common audit, the Living Standards Measurement Study, is used by the World Bank to obtain poverty statistics. It requires each household to spend a day filling out a long questionnaire.

                  A typical survey with a sample of about 2 000 households costs a few million dollars. From data collection to dissemination takes another two years.

                  According to a May 2013 report by the Brookings Institution, a Washington think-tank, six of sub-Saharan Africa’s 49 countries have not conducted a household survey and only 28 have done one in the past seven years.

                  Reports on the size of Africa’s middle class highlight presumptions and (mis)calculations.


                  that’s why I pointed to millionaire numbers – 16K in Nigeria vs 10.1M households in the U.S. alone with $1 million or more in investable assets, excluding the value of their primary residence.

                  (and that disproportion will not change very much, whatever the hype)

                  and you WM started this ‘tangential discussion to the original topic thread’, not me

                  Investors buying into hype, not reality, in Africa’s consumer markets

    • Mareks Vilkins says:

      Good Guy or Bad Guy, huh?


      In an article published by The Sunday Times two years ago, journalist Maurice Chittenden wrote: “Eliasch is part of a growing trend towards ‘green colonialism’. Rich people with chequebooks instead of pith helmets, charities and trusts, who are buying vast swathes of the Third World or ‘renting’ the timber rights to stop trees being cut down. It is a breakaway from the methods that have characterised the international conservation movement for the past 50 years.”

      In that article, the journalist also quoted Eliasch to have said: “In theory you can perhaps buy the Amazon for $50 billion. It would be a very quick payback because a hurricane like Katrina will cost them a similar amount in payouts.” A line that supposedly caused discomfort in the Brazilian government.

      Gethal, a company now owned by Swedish businessman Johan Eliasch (who has been called “a millionaire with a conscience” and acts as environmental consultant for the British Prime Minister), is facing a 230 million dollar bill from the Brazilian government for illegally-cutting down thousands of trees from the Amazon and lacking certification for lands it supposedly owns.

      The communication sent by the National Institute for Environmental and Natural Resources (Ibama) says Gethal has accumulated 150 thousand hectares in the forest; but that by 1999, it only had authorization to handle 90 thousand hectares.

  9. Yvette says:

    Excellent article, Ken. It’s good to see someone discuss ecological issues with a perspective that includes culture and spirit.

    “I have learned that to understand environmental conflicts, like the hazing and killing of wild migratory bison, we have to look at morals, culture, and science.”


    and this…..

    “Farrell explains that “the overwhelming techno-scientific approach we take to environmental issues, while often useful, tends to discourage other approaches. But these conflicts have cultural and moral dimensions.”

    Science, reductionist science, has an extraordinary important place in our world. We need it and we must encourage research to continue. There is also a place and instances to include and encourage the knowledge that comes from culture and spirit. The reverence for the “flash of a firefly in the night” or the “breath of buffalo in the wintertime” provides a reason to for continue with scientific research.

  10. Immer Treue says:



December 2015


‎"At some point we must draw a line across the ground of our home and our being, drive a spear into the land and say to the bulldozers, earthmovers, government and corporations, “thus far and no further.” If we do not, we shall later feel, instead of pride, the regret of Thoreau, that good but overly-bookish man, who wrote, near the end of his life, “If I repent of anything it is likely to be my good behaviour."

~ Edward Abbey

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