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Public Radio's Environmental News Magazine (follow us on Google News)

Work and Taxes: It's an Animal's Life!

Air Date: Week of

Commentator Whit Gibbons wonders whether humans aren't just one of many species who want to continue to do their jobs without disruption.


CURWOOD: Many people look at the question of protecting endangered species as a matter of balancing taxes and jobs against environmental concerns. But commentator Whitt Gibbons says some jobs and taxes are missing from that equation.

GIBBONS: Political rhetoric includes frequent references to finding jobs and paying taxes. Politicians are referring to humans, of course, but are jobs and taxes part of the natural world? Do wild animals have jobs and pay taxes?

Raccoons spend part of each day looking for food. That's a raccoon's job. Beavers work at cutting down trees, to repair dams and build lodges. Social insects like ants and bees are the paragon of an organized labor union, but without strikes or contract negotiations. They carry out daily job duties: defending the colony, bringing food to the nest, serving as nursemaids to the queen. Yes, all wild animals have jobs.

One reason to have a job is to acquire necessities: food and shelter. Health care, defense, and transportation are also lifetime requirements, for humans as well as wild animals. If a business shuts down or reduces production, human jobs are lost. The same is true for wild animals. The endangered wood stork's job is to find fish and tadpoles in shallow wetlands. Destroying wetlands abolishes wood stork business sites, eliminating wood stork jobs.

The unemployment problem we create for wood storks is one example of the economic toll we take on wildlife. Thousands of wetland species have their work places eliminated each year, as do species living in forests, deserts, and oceans.

Do animals pay taxes? Absolutely. Humans place a heavy tax burden on animals. We eat them, wear them, make medicines out of them. As we over-tax our native wildlife, the national wildlife deficit increases. Human jobs are important, but so are the jobs of wildlife, and we put other species out of work, some permanently, far more often than we do people. Natural systems provide services essential to our own existence. Let's not put them out of the business.

CURWOOD: Whitt Gibbons is an ecologist at the University of Georgia Savannah River Ecology Laboratory. He comes to us from member station WUGA in Athens, Georgia.



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