Social Media’s Oppressive Anger


By Andrew Field – Follow on Twitter
Field A_2010_07_29_0436_250x375px
Social media users are becoming stale at creating new and interesting own-content
, thus allowing the networks to be hijacked by partisan politics, extremist religion, and to a lesser degree causes, anti-phobias and conspiracies. It is a hot pot of grumpiness.

Recent surveys suggested that “more than one-third of social media users are worn out by the amount of political content they encounter”. And, individually, you really are not contributing to the groundswell of content or discontent with fresh ideas. Same old, same old.

Both Facebook and Twitter are being populated with so much unoriginal content that they have become the premier platform for re-messaging (sharing/re-tweeting) partisan interests. The volume of conflicting ideas and philosophies in single medium has never been surpassed. Stop the internet, I just want to get off… enough, I just don’t care what you think, really!

Social media users are suffering information overload, and often this excess is of material they do not wish to deal with. The Pew Research Center suggests that “more than half (of users) describe their online interactions with those they disagree with politically as stressful and frustrating”. People with causes are using brutal force feed tactics to deliver their messages, often with horrific, gory images.

Content is stressful indeed. Those users let loose on social media who do create original content seem to pursue very blinkered views. They will not entertain contrary thoughts that may be different, unconventional, or even from a new perspective. Dogmatic content sometimes reflects, sometimes poorly, on the user’s general upbringing, philosophies and shaping.

To cap this, there is an awful lot of anger out there in social media. Clearly, this is an angry little world and so too is the content of social media. It is nasty. The tone of content is often disrespectful, condescending and, frankly, troubling. This anger is a reflection of the broader climate in our societies today. Who foments this anger and what is the end objective?

Add to this spurious, fake news. Social media users have a penchant for fake news distribution. They just cannot help themselves. Few take time to check and verify. Gullibility is at its peak. The more outrageous the better, and why not one might ask?

Governments and the mainstream media have been the masters of fake news for years. We used to call it propaganda. But today’s fake new is sensational, good reading for the bored masses and angry people. They are being fed, and we are all being manipulated.

Governments, in their infinite wisdom (takes tongue out of cheek), busy themselves with anti-hate laws in the hope that the problem will subside. It will not go away. Racism was never properly suppressed, its use moved simply from one hue to the other. It’s a cause that will not die. Nor will religious extremism.

Populations have aversions to those who are different and do not conform to custom. Social media provides a ready platform to offer discontent and multiplies the issues when legislated against. Germany’s proposal to fine social media companies for failing to remove illegal content “is a significant moment in democracy’s battle with digital giants”, according to some!

Social media moguls are extending the science of social media with artificial intelligence. Google has launched a new AI program called Perspective to detect “abusive” comments and hatred online. Facebook recently admitted “it has become clear that our systems to identify and remove hate speech have failed to work as effectively as we would like”.

With both government and social media controls creeping in, users are actually seeing little relief. In fact the problem is getting worse, and the majority of users now try harder to avoid political and religious argument on social media.

Often, when avoidance fails, users take steps to filter or curate their feeds, frequently then eliminating the good material too! When the State takes a role in the media, the news is always biased, but boycott often leaves one without useful information.

The solution may lie very much in your choice of contacts and friends in social media. The average user is actually carrying too many contacts. Once it was vogue to have as many as you could muster, but alas, that is biting back.

Some interesting statistics suggest that two-thirds of your Facebook friends are generally known to you personally, while Twitter is almost the reverse. Yet of your contacts, only about a quarter have similar views to you, less than 6% opposing views about politics and the rest have mixed or neutral opinions. Selective pruning of your contacts may well be necessary.  But do you want to stick your head in the sand?

Unless you can achieve some peace of mind in social media, angry information overload will wear you down. One would think that if you can’t stand the heat, get out of the kitchen, yet social media, especially Facebook, membership continues to climb. Clearly humanity needs its little dose of anger, its gripes, whinges and whines. We are being overwhelmed, it may be time for some to pull the plug on this social monster.

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Mankind: Critically Endangered to Suffer loss of its Wildlife Heritage


Rushing to Water_2012_09_03_5990-2

By Andrew Field – Follow on Twitter
Field A_2010_07_29_0436_250x375pxYou have all heard that saying about the elephant in the room… it’s a metaphorical idiom for an obvious truth which goes unaddressed. It’s a risk that nobody wants to discuss. Our elephant in the room is as real as it will ever get, yet everyone is sticking their heads in the sand, to excuse another idiom. In the news this week is the story that a recent three year survey has “revealed a dramatic 30 percent decline in savannah elephant populations.” i

African lion populations have been declining rapidly too. Some say that 75 percent of the lions have been wiped out in the last 50 years. The world lion population is estimated at between 25 and 30 thousand… that is barely more than twice the number of athletes at the Games of the XXXI Olympiad. By the next games, Olympians may well outnumber lions in Africa.

One doesn’t have to search too hard for information to establish the dramatic decline in the now critically endangered rhinoceros populations, the now vulnerable lions, not to mention Grizzly Bear, the Polar Bear and the Great White Shark. These species are still being hunted. You would have thought man would be smart enough to realise his destruction of our environment. But no, we are told this is conservation.

The World Wildlife Fund (WWF) lists 18 species as critically endangered. Nearly half of those species are African! A further 30 species are simply endangered, with African Wild Dog topping the list and a few other African species being prominent. ii One might begin to point fingers towards incompetent governance, corruption, land encroachment and poaching. They are all rife in Africa. We might well cry loud about the insatiable Asian demand for animal parts too. We know the hunters will also rush to defend their patch.

Take as an example the case of the rhinoceros, killed for the horny growth on their forehead to make dagger handles and used supposedly as an Eastern medical remedy. Zimbabwe’s wildlife parks have succumbed almost entirely to being poached out. There are an estimated 800 rhinoceros left in Zimbabwe almost all of which are in privately owned parks in the hands of rhino conservationists, but even those are under attack, often with filthy politicians being complicit! Twice the number of rhinoceros were poached in 2015 compared with the previous year!

National Parks and Wildlife Management in Zimbabwe recently ventured into dehorning rhinoceros in what is described as a desperate attempt to stop poaching. One wonders what will happen to the horn? Will they destroy it or will it be whittled off to some Chinese trader to enrich some politician or bureaucrat? Why have National Parks not destroyed the huge stock of ivory in their possession? Who has his eye on future enrichment?

The point is, we are awash with information on the problem, yet nobody with the power at their disposal has the courage to stand firm on real conservation of African species. The solutions can only lie in Africa. Yes we have a whole army of tree huggers, conservationists, and animal lovers barking at the world, but nothing they do will reverse the trend. Indeed it is like one man trying to push over an African Mahogany tree; with his head.

Governments need to prioritise actions to reduce the destruction of our African heritage. We as wildlife enthusiasts need to boot them in the right direction. Organised Wildlife needs to speak out and become more prominent and active in this fight. Sadly, if they don’t and during my lifetime, the rhino population will have dwindled to naught, lions will have gone too and the elephants will perhaps survive me on the critically endangered list. What great African wildlife heritage we are leaving to our grandchildren!

i Agence France-Press
ii World Wildlife Fund

The Passing of a Matriarch


By Andrew Field – Follow on Twitter
Flickr_Andrew_XIOur fleeting exchanges with nature allow us to reflect on how we handle the real world, but sometimes we are jolted into a sense of reality when nature turns on itself. A short while ago I was privileged to spend yet another period in Mana Pools and be with the wild. For a few years now, I have been an occasional observer of the most amazing union between the ‘grandmother’ lioness of Mana Pools and her issue, a healthy lioness we shall refer to as the ‘daughter’.

Incredibly, the older lioness has survived these last few years almost entirely due to the presence of her offspring despite the duo being ostracised by the main prides of the park. The old girl was toothless, incapable of hunting, and reliant on the younger animal. It is estimated the old girl is about 16 years of age. Each visit there is a mission to find this couple, a personal charge in a way, to be sure the old girl is all right.

Grandma Lioness_2013_06_02_9122_768x474px

Occasionally there are additions to this mini pride, in the form of cubs, usually two, and it is delightful to spend time with them, if one can. Last year there was a single surviving cub, named Bertie. Sadly, the record of survival for cubs is slim. While the dominant males from the main prides sire these cubs, they become easily victim to a nasty trait in paternal males and other predators in the park.

On my recent arrival at my normal ‘digs’ in the park, Goliath Safaris, I was told that the old girl had last been sighted a couple of days back, but that she had been deserted by the daughter. In all probability the grandmother would have succumbed by then. Saddened by this news, the days that followed were spent mostly on lion spoor, looking for a pride we know as the ‘Spice Girls’, or the males, ‘The Backstreet Boys’, ever hopeful we would stumble upon the tracks of the grandmother and daughter.

Our first encounter with the pride was a small hunting group, a skittish bunch of young males and a female, but they didn’t stick around to greet us. In fact we had little chance with a young bull elephant seemingly chasing them off his patch. A little later in the day, approaching noon, we received a report of a sighting of the old girl. Excited and eager, we trekked to the approximate location and set off looking for more spoor, but no sign was found. We had been given poor directions.

While travelling back to camp for our siesta, we were blessed with an accidental sighting of the old girl from the vehicle, quite near where we had seen that flighty pride on the hunt. We stopped and moved in on foot to observe her. The old girl had aged so much since last seeing her… she was definitely on her last legs, thin, bone structure protruding, exhausted; just wanting to lay peacefully and die. She offered us a permeating growl, akin to the purr of a Harley Davidson, but was really quite disinterested with the invasion of her space. No sign of the daughter or any cubs was apparent.

Astonishingly, there lay nearby the lioness a carcass of a dead honey badger, a ferocious little beast which would never have been easy prey and which, clearly, the old girl had neither hunted nor killed. Was this an opportunity discovery? Not likely, scavengers abound here. Then, how did the old girl manage to acquire this food? Did that jumpy hunting pride leave her with this food? We’ll never know, but I would like to think they did.

We sat a short distance from her, tolerating the occasional soft roar and growl… I know the others, like me, were silently bidding the old matriarch farewell; her survival was numbered in hours rather than days… a few tears were scuffed away. So strange how we build such compassion for these beasts, which would happily rip us apart in their prime, but we do. There is a telepathy of acknowledgement; almost a psychic inner feeling between man and beast. We slowly, yet sadly, withdrew… this was our last sighting of the grand old lady of Mana.

A few days later, we had stumbled across a large pack of wild dogs and spend time with them, photographing the pack and individuals… our sojourn was interrupted by a large lioness moving through the area, in the late afternoon, offering a deep penetrating calls which would be heard for miles, perhaps seeking other members of the pride.

The dogs moved defensively towards her in a large pack and we followed some distance behind. The solitary lioness broke into an opening and showed herself. It was the ‘daughter’ without doubt! We will never know if she was calling for her mother or perhaps already mourning her loss, but clearly she is alone now. There was no sign of Bertie. The dogs retreated as if offering respect.

There is no confirmation of the old girl’s passing, I pray it was peaceful. Hopefully the daughter will integrate back into the main-steam prides of Mana and continue her normal life, else her own survival will be brief. Her fascinating dedication to the upkeep of her mother, against many harsh odds, is a truly wonderful and exceptional demonstration of the human-like love and bonding that all we know so well.

Rest in Peace old lady of Mana.

Mana Pools: Constitutional Protection of the Environment


By Andrew Field – Follow on Twitter
Flickr_Andrew_XIThe proposed Zimbabwean Constitution has specific reference to environmental rights in a clause that will give every person a right to an environment that is not harmful to health or well-being. Every Zimbabwean has the right to the environment being protected for the benefit of present and future generations.

The Constitution proposes that measures be taken to: prevent pollution and ecological degradation; promote conservation; and secure ecologically sustainable development. This is music in the ears for some, but perhaps it does not go far enough. Mere measures to protect our natural heritage, the flora, and all creatures great and small are not exactly a right. It should be. Things other than humans should have rights. Humans seem not to be bequeathed the right to the protection of their national heritage either.

Could you imagine a new, say fundamentalist, regime coming into power, which, in its wisdom decides that the Great Zimbabwe was never constructed by the indigenous people after all, but rather by some foreigners from the east or the north who had come to take our gold, ivory and reap the nation of its people for enforced slavery, back in the 11th Century. They decide in this realisation and in their moment of new found glory that the monument of the Great Zimbabwe should be levelled to the ground and destroyed. As ludicrous as that may seem, the origins of this national edifice are still not substantially agreed. Great Zimbabwe is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Something similar to this is actually happening in Mali right now. Sites, previously declared World Heritage Sites by UNESCO are now being desecrated by religious fundamentalists who wield the power of the gun. Islamists, supposedly connected with Al Queda, who grabbed control of Northern Mali, including Timbuktu, believe centuries old shrines are idolatrous and have already destroyed seven mausoleums. The politicians of the day, whatever their cause, have effectively destroyed some of the national heritage in Timbuktu belonging to the people of Mali. It is of course an absolute disgrace.

Zimbabwe is blessed with five World Heritage Sites, three of them cultural and two of them natural. They are, in addition to Great Zimbabwe National Monument: the Khami Ruins National Monument; Matobo Hills; Mana Pools National Park, Sapi and Chewore Safari areas; and the great Mosi-ao-Tunya (or Victoria Falls). One wonders, of course, just how much protection these sites have in the face of radical politics or greedy commerce.

The authors of the proposed constitution have certainly made provisions, but they are diluted. For example, all state institutions and every citizen must endeavour to preserve and protect Zimbabwe’s heritage. Alas, both institutions and citizens are susceptible to the seven deadly sins, particularly where a regime rules with impunity to the rule of law. Many will say we have been there and some elements of government still pursue the rotten ethos.

Traditional leaders have a duty to preserve their culture, traditions, history and heritage. One might ask if in fact this obligation is somewhat adulterated, since the chiefs have mostly fallen in with the more gratuitous party’s gravy train. The risk is that only a one-sided culture, history and heritage will remain intact, with the destruction of that which is against the grain of current party philosophy, much like the happenings in Timbuktu.

Today, some citizens of Zimbabwe, perhaps aided and assisted by those in politics, seem to be out of sync with the good intentions of the proposed constitution already. They aim to satisfy their apparent commercial greed and gluttony (the type which allows one mining magnate to buy up numerous multi-million dollar properties south of the Limpopo) in desecrating a World Heritage Site, Mana Pools National Park, Sapi and Chewore Safari areas. They intend to do open cast mining of two river lines through the area. This seriously threatens our national and natural heritage.

Our would-be mining moguls seem oblivious, with their poor intentions, to their moral obligations they have to the citizens of Zimbabwe, the nation and the World at large. Perhaps this band of merry diggers should take stock of what they propose to do and relate this to the environmental needs of present and future generations. They should call it a day… if they are allowed to pursue their objectives no one can say where it will all end. There are many sandy riverbeds in Zimbabwe.

You can help… there is a petition to be signed and you could join a social media group in support of this campaign.

Visit Andrew’s Simply Wild Photography photo blog… you will not regret doing so!

Zambezi Valley Eco-System Threatened by Mining


By Andrew Field – Follow on Twitter
Flickr_Andrew_XIConservationists are up in arms, again, and quite rightly so. The latest gambit is that of the intended prospecting and exploration for heavy mineral sand deposits (HMSD) of two rivers: the Rukomechi River, along the western boundary of Mana Pools National Park and the Chewore River, along the eastern boundary of the Sapi Safari area. Both of these rivers are tributaries to the great Zambezi River and wind across the Zambezi Valley which is within the declared UNESCO Middle Zambezi Biosphere Reserve. Mana Pools is a UNESCO World Heritage site, yet mining magnets are just about to rip it apart.

There is a long history of environmental activism opposed to mineral sands mining and for good reason too. Heavy mineral sands are referred to as a class of ore deposits yielding minerals such as zirconium, titanium, thorium, and tungsten; not to mention diamonds and other gems. Precious metals may also be harvested and, with alluvial gold being not uncommon in the Highveld to the south, perhaps this is their ugly objective. Clearly, if prospectors have diamonds in mind, we know exactly in which direction this is going, and even which filthy politicians will fill their pockets.

This is the dire reality for conservationists; the underhand world of patronage politics is hard at play and usually gets its way with impunity. The indigenous venture which is at the core of this intended exploration is a company whose principals are apparently well connected in political circles and who, some reports suggest, have made much out of recent ignoble initiatives to indigenous mining in Zimbabwe. The influence of the party faithful in these matters should give all a cause for concern.

The Zambezi River – a fragile ecosystem about to be pillaged – Photograph by Andrew Field – Simply Wild Photography

Exploiting HMSD is usually in the form of ruinous strip mining and probably the most destructive method of excavation in conservation terms. Mining these resources will result in the two river lines being ripped up, down to bedrock basically, and heavy, noisy machinery and processing lines moving down each riverbed with its commensurate destruction of the flora and fauna in its path, not to mention the toxic filth of such process. Progressive miners may attempt to rehabilitate the ecosystem they usually destroy with ecologically similar species, but Zimbabwe’s nouveau indigenous miners have no good track record of this, or of pouring funds back into the local community.

Even more concerning is the fact that the Ministry of Mines has actually issued prospecting and exploration licences to a private concern to conduct business in a national park or, worse, a World Heritage Site and Biosphere Reserve, apparently without environmental impact assessment. What were they thinking? The area was set aside for the benefit of all Zimbabweans, and the world alike, to conserve the unique flora and fauna; and this purposefully excludes any human habitation or industry. Do you smell a rat yet?

Mana Pools is not without its recent controversy, involving a seemingly dodgy or at least an opaque deal, perhaps involving foreigners, politicians and those in trust or authority, along the way. More recently, construction commenced on a 24-bed Mana Pools Safari Lodge in an area that is considered environmentally delicate; despite strong objections and protestation by conservationists who know their business. Developers seem to have hung their success on a pithy, sometimes incorrect, ill-informed, and far from in-depth environmental assessment study. Clearly that rat is quite rotten.

The problem seems to be that those who protest the most about these invasions are seen or perceived as minority beneficiaries of what is about to be destroyed by those who now hold those positions of trust and authority. The current flush of bureaucrats brook no advice from experts that know and care, there is money to be made. That was the ethos of the ill fated land saga and now the business indigenisation process too.

The real trouble here is that the majority of Zimbabweans derive no tangible benefit from these fragile places, such as Mana Pools National Park, and, frankly, many may not care about their fate. Protest some may, but the cogs of contemporary politics and influence are not well attuned to what is good for all, but rather to that which is in it for them. That is why 30 tonne rigs are traversing Mana Pools’ delicate ecosystem with building supplies. That is why Timbuktu’s cultural heritage sites have been destroyed. Do the people care? Yes, the rat is dead and smelling bad.

The question is, do Zimbabweans really want to see their natural heritage being pillaged and plundered by the connected elite, the chefs? Do they much really care? If anything these remote havens of the real Africa are not within the reach of the people and herein lays the Achilles Heel of any eco-protest. It all seems a too little, too late. Much needs to be done to convince the ordinary person that his natural heritage is perilously at stake, because when all is done and dusted, river lines have been destroyed, and eco-systems have collapsed, it will be futile to say “I told you so”.

You can help… there is a petition to be signed and you could join a social media group in support of this campaign.

Visit Andrew’s Simply Wild Photography photo blog… you will not regret doing so!

Is the Battle for the Rhinoceros on its Last Legs?


By Andrew Field – Follow on Twitter
Flickr_Andrew_XISouthern African conservation of the rhinoceros is severely threatened despite years of intensive preservation effort, mostly by private enterprise and non-governmental entities. Renewed demand for rhinoceros horn, basically a material called keratin, similar to hair and nails, has stepped up the pressure upon Africa’s most treasured fauna heritage. Criminal syndicates are hard at play while African governments slumber.

It is estimated that near 95 percent of all rhinoceros horn poached in southern Africa ends up in the Far East. China is often cited as a major consumer nation, yet the probability is that Vietnam may well be more predominant. Vietnam can hardly be proud that she lost her last Javan rhinoceros to poachers in 2010. With Asian rhinoceros numbers now depleted, to shamefully low levels, the East is looking at its new frontier of horn supply, Africa.

The principle cause of foreign demand is perceived pharmacological benefit in treating high fevers, influenza, hepatitis, and leukaemia amongst other things, according to ancient Chinese writings. Yet, no medical research in the last 30 years has concurred with these antediluvian authors. Asian rhinoceros horn is considered more potent than that of its African cousin and commands a five-fold higher price too. Alas for Africa, superior horn from the now critically endangered Sumatran and Javan rhinoceros, the latter disgracefully down to a mere world population of just 30 animals, is nearly impossible to acquire!

Africa is not just victim to this effect, but catalyst to the cause as well. The ‘great white’ hunters of the late 19th and early 20th Centuries set a poor precedent in animal slaughter, but poverty would, today, seem a principle cause. This is a by-product of Africa’s heritage and political mismanagement; the doctrine of want, greed and destruction; conflict and warfare; and all the apparent misdemeanours of post-colonial government. Such poverty has presented opportunity for both indigenous poacher (who would never benefit from the live animal in the wild) and foreign trafficker alike.

Picture ©2008 Andrew Field – Simply Wild Photography

The International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) sums it up succinctly,

“A lack of political support and will power for conservation efforts in many rhino habitats, international organized crime groups targeting rhinos and increasing illegal demand for rhino horns and commercial poaching are the main threats faced by rhinos.”

Africans have been far too passive in controlling the poaching scourge. Inadequate policing; ineffective legislation; poor conservation awareness and consequent pittance budgets are germane. Misdirected land policies; political attitude with hapless foresight in the face of many other priorities, usually brought about by greed, patronage, corruption and incompetence, contribute to poaching successes, trafficking wealth, and foreign demand.

Trafficking rhinoceros horn has become a lucrative business, so much so, that even the official keepers of Africa’s wildlife heritage are succumbing to its temptations. Your average poacher has stepped up the sophistication ladder too, armed with high powered rifles; state of the art darting equipment and specialist sedative drugs; chain saws; night vision instruments and helicopters as well. Often, the horn ‘reaping’ resources of criminal syndicates far ‘outgun’ those of the protectors. It has become a no win situation for Africa.

Trade in African rhinoceros horn is becoming so lucrative that opinions in some parts of the conversation camp are turning towards legitimising its trade. To some, that would be akin to decriminalising drug trafficking because the problem has become too large and too hot to handle. A few thousand rhinoceros in the wild are hardly likely to service the demand of a quarter of the world’s population. Massive breeding and livestock rearing programmes would be needed: something way outside the capacity of ‘developing world’ coffers and way down the priority list too. The scale is just too immense, besides poached horn is free, or at least cheap.

Pertinently, Africa can hardly feed itself, yet alone nurture its wildlife. Can Africa look to its Eastern horn market for help? Strange as that may seem, Asia, being the principle source of demand, has not seen fit to properly conserve or indeed escalate or ‘farm’ its own rhinoceros populations to service horn demand. Why should they? The ease with which Asia has managed to supplement dwindling supplies of, albeit less powerful, horn out of Africa should be ringing bells loud and long for African politicians.

Conservationists have been tolling these bells for decades. Zimbabwe’s Campfire programme has long identified the need to allow poor rural communities, the have-nots, to be rewarded and benefit from their wildlife heritage through conservation projects alongside the wealthy. Could African communities, using Campfire styled strategies, benefit from massive rhinoceros breeding schemes and how effectively could governments protect their efforts if they did? It seems that this has been left to private enterprise, which is actually stifled by regulatory control against trading the horn they reap from living, rather than slaughtered, beasts.

Little doubt the debate will continue, but swift action is now the only hope. In the meantime, Africa’s rhinoceros populations are on the decline, being decimated, following the Asian trend. Clearly, Far Eastern nations, responsible for the destruction of African fauna, need to play their critical role in controlling illicit trade, yet that outcome is remote.

That leaves the issue squarely in the hands of poorly resourced Africans. It does not bode well for the rhinoceros, short of implementing some rather draconian measures. How does one expect African governments to fair against illicit horn syndicates when more powerful and better resourced nations have failed against the drug cartels? The other option is to succumb to legitimisation of trade in horn. That will only enhance our acceleration towards extinction of the species because, seemingly, Africans lack the will and capacity to change and have run out of time to alter their course.

“Despite the action of conservation programmes, 25% of mammals are at risk of extinction. For example, the reassessments of several Rhinoceros species show that the subspecies of the Black Rhino in western Africa, the Western Black Rhino (Diceros bicornis longipes) has officially been declared Extinct. The subspecies of the White Rhino in central Africa, the Northern White Rhino (Ceratotherium simum cottoni) is currently teetering on the brink of extinction and has been listed as Possibly Extinct in the Wild. The Javan Rhino (Rhinoceros sondaicus) is also making its last stand, as the subspecies Rhinoceros sondaicus annamiticus is probably Extinct, following the poaching of what is thought to be the last animal in Viet Nam in 2010.” – IUCN

Visit Andrew’s Simply Wild Photography photo blog… you will not regret doing so!


By Andrew Field – Follow on Twitter
Flickr_Andrew_XISpeed trapping is probably the single most used law enforcement method to combat road deaths.  One might however question whether this does in fact save lives or whether it is merely window dressing enforcement to generate general compliance with the rules of the road.  For want of a better word the imposition of fines gets a wee bit ‘pedantic’ for those who are travelling at say 65kph in a 60kph zone.   We all know how easily and indeed comfortably one can creep up 5kph without noticing, but one supposes that rules are rules.
 
We need to take a step back from trapping to the actual setting of speed limits.  This is where the ‘do-gooders’, the politicians and councillors step in.  Some may suggest that speed limits are set too low, thus making trapping ‘easy meat’ for traffic law enforcement officers, and that cognisance should be taken of certain other factors, such as age of drive, experience and the type of vehicle they are driving.  Many are designed for speed.
 
Many of us are in metric speed limit zones and, generally, town centres are set at 60kph as a general limit and 80kph on dual carriageways.  The open general limit on highways is 120kph.   In the United Kingdom built up area are 30mph, while dual carriageways and highways get the 70mph approval.  Yet we are all driving vehicles which manufacturers have designed to travel upwards from speeds of 200kph/124mph, almost twice speed limits.  That is criminal!
 
One often wonders what science is applied to speed limiting, or whether in fact nations have just pursued limiting as a case of ‘those have always been the limits’.  Statistics have been quoted on United Kingdom based speed limits which suggest “Accident statistics show that at 40mph nine out of ten children hit by cars either die or receive life changing serious injuries. At 20mph nine out of ten survive.” **   Should 20mph be the general limit in built up areas?

Clearly, many people reading this will be thinking that their local speed limits are a little dull, when they come to consider it.  Nobody would propose that speed limits be abolished, because there are very good reasons not to travel at high velocity through, for example, built up areas where pedestrians dominate, especially the young.   But control does not lie in law enforcement trapping.  Given the amazing feats of engineering we enjoy in motor vehicles today, and considering aspects of age, driving experience and training, one wonders if speed limiting legislations has been left behind in the 1950s mindset.  It is very much contingency limiting, for that tiny minority who may suffer an accident, which cannot be adequately controlled.

Given all this, it would seem that more fundamental issues are still ignored.  These are that most people who take to the wheel of a car generally intend to be law abiding citizens and have no intention of using their vehicles as a weapon.  No cognizance is taken of those who are seasoned drivers, nor the propensity of the very young or the very old to be more accident prone.  No one cares about expansion of vehicle brake capacity or efficiency, vehicle design and the elimination, to a reasonable degree, of drink-driving (which combined with speed is a sure killer).
 
The potential impact fatality figures on children are often quoted.  With measures like gun control in the United Kingdom, when it was discovered that guns can kill in large numbers in populous communities, guns were banned outright.  Yet when it is evident that the higher the speed the more likely impact deaths occur, with vehicles, which are apparently more lethal than guns, vehicle are not banned.  Even recommended speed rates for hitting children are not imposed, less enforced, around areas where children predominate.   Compare legislation controlling health and safety on the roads with that imposed on the tobacco industry.  The principle objectives are similar, to save lives, except motor vehicles kill mostly third parties rather than cigarettes kill smokers themselves, if they choose to smoke.

As ludicrous as that may seem, legislators still have not considered limiting vehicle manufacturers with the speed that their production vehicles may travel.   There are no health warnings in the cockpits of these killing machines on four wheels!   To achieve ‘do-gooder’ status, really no vehicles should be allowed to travel beyond a nation’s speed limits.  Their ability to do so actually encourages, if not causes, crime.  With geo-positioning technology vehicles could be limited easily to speeds outside driver control, right down to that magical 20mph in areas where children might be likely jump in front of motor vehicles.  Yet nothing is being done with this line of thinking.

There are just so many variables, one might guess it would make traffic law enforcement just a little too difficult, but speed trapping will unlikely contribute to the reduction in road deaths.   More scientific speed limiting will and vehicle manufacturers should have been more involved in that process.

Visit Andrew’s Simply Wild Photography photo blog… you will not regret doing so!