Global trade and local possums

I've been thinking about the graphs in a recent Against the Current post for a few days. I think the post (and the article which the graphs come from) are well worth reading, but the biggest message is that comparisons of 1929-30 and 2008-9 show that global trade and stock market value have both dropped faster since April 2008 than in the comparative period (immediately after the peak in the stock market and in trade) in 1929.

Which seems a pretty powerful piece of information to me.

This afternoon, over biscuits and tea, after much admiration of Brighid's biscuit dunking skills and of the clothes I dropped round for the great grandchildren, my cousin Mary (aged 82) and I were discussing this graph. We talked about the 1930s depression which she remembers but which her late husband Lou, eight years older than her, remembered even more vividly. Mary said she never went hungry and her Dad was in work throughout the lean times, so they were very lucky. Lou's family had not been so lucky. His father was out of work for much of the depression and he did remember going hungry. They, like many families, lived off the land and his father would kill native wood pigeons to feed the family. Wild blackberries were much loved.

Which got me thinking about living on the Coast and living off the land.

Which got me thinking about 1080, which in the name of possum eradication, is poison entering our waterways and our wildlife and leaching into our soil for generations to come. Occasionally we still hear that this is a DOC native fauna protection project, but here we're pretty used to the reality that it is targeted at possum control for the benefit of our dairy farmers. The link being that possums carry bovine tuberculosis which is a significant feature of dairy herds on the West Coast.

So as a time approaches where many would benefit (read: survive) from shooting wild animals in the bush, we are poisoning that bush?

I'm further mystified given the premium price which knitting wool which has possum blended in it attracts.

So we are poisoning possums which would otherwise be edible and their pelts usable through poison which is a low labour means of predator control at a time when intensive labour projects offer dignity and meaning to many people otherwise out of work?

Go on, tell me what I've missed. Which dots have connected incorrectly? Because the way I see it, bad crazy decisions abound.


Gillybean said…
You've hit the nail on the head. I dispise the 1080 drops, but we don't create a big enough uproar for the powers that be to listen. I don't know if you'd catch me eating possum though, maybe if I was starving! They are very good to bury under fruit trees though.
My brother gets such good money for possum wool that he won't even spare me some to spin.
Heather said…
@Gillybean - possums are yummy! I'm a suburban Aucklander, but we're near a patch of bush and occasionally get possums in our backyard. We've eaten three over the last couple of years, and I can't believe that our neighbours just throw out or bury the ones they catch. We did two as a stew with oranges and onions and carrots, and one as a Thai Mussaman curry. Both ways were delicious. It has a strongish flavour, and matched well with the fruityness of the stew and the heat of the curry. Next time you catch one you should try it. The stew recipe is based off one on the Otarohanga tourism people's website.
nova_j said…
ok so i loathe 1080, but i dread to think of people out of work, who might be completely inexperienced with a gun, being encouraged to go out shooting possums. and everyone i knew who go possum shooting did so with shotguns, which seems to render the possum inedible & the pelt unusable..?

i prefer a trap & ship to australia program myself ;)
Welcome to lettersfromwetville Heather! Interesting to read of yummy possum.

Gill how does your brother catch the possums to keep the pelt in good condition?

Nova, I understand your concerns about safety with a rifle. Hunting is a popular and well established sport here on the Coast and so the transition to hunting possum for meat and fur could be a lot safer and more seamless here than in a city context.
Mary said…
One of the problems with trapping/shooting for pest eradication is cherry picking - in other words, all the easy pickings near tracks and settlements are trapped and shot, but the possums in more difficult to reach places are left alone. Whether your goals are to reduce bovine Tb or to protect native fauna, you are therefore unlikely to attain either. You also create a system of incentives that will ensure a continued possum population, possibly at levels not sustainable for that native flora and fauna to thrive.

Many in DoC argue that it is a matter of having possums, or valued native flora and fauna, but not both. I haven't reviewed their evidence for some time, but when I last did, it was fairly convincing.

I'm still hoping for some breakthroughs in immunocontraception, which seem to be taking their time!

Now if we can just breed enough of those tasty wood pigeons....
Interesting and thoughtful as always Mary. The factor which has influenced my thinking, and that of many locals, is the loss of the dawn chorus in areas near 1080 drops - this is not only saddening but also makes us doubt the argument about 1080 protecting native fauna.

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