The Canadian Imagination

What it means to be Canadian; examining and reworking Canada as a nation.

Saturday, June 12, 2004

The farmers and the shrike

In a strange land somewhere beyond the looking glass, a small songbird, with the feeding habits of a raptor, was on the verge of extinction, with fewer than thirty nesting pairs remaining.

The government took it upon itself to declare its nesting and hunting areas "protected", and to limit development of those areas.

Unfortunately, as so often happens in so many places, people happened to own those pieces of undeveloped land. And, naturally, they expected that they had the right to do whatever they wished with their land (or, perhaps more accurately, that no one else had the right to tell them what to do with their land).

So, when they applied for licensing for this changed use of the land and for that, and the government denied them that licensing on the basis of a small bird, they were rather annoyed. "Are the needs of people to come second to the needs of a bird?" they asked.

But the government persisted: if the bird was to survive, the land needed to stay in its current state -- although we can allow you to keep cows if you want. That gets along with the bird.

So the people went out en masse, and they hunted down every last one of the endangered birds and killed it and had it for supper. And, now that there was no more endangered bird, the licenses for changed use of the land went through without any problems.

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