threats to types

Joseph Laferriere joseph at BIO2.COM
Mon Jul 10 14:45:00 CDT 1995


Standard procedure today is that researchers working in a foreign country
are expected to leave duplicates in the host country. I would hope that by
now every responsible collector is aware of and supportive of this custom.
In my opinion, an international treaty to standardize this practice would
not be unwarranted. The problem lies in trying to apply this retroactively
to work done decades or centuries ago. Applying late-20th morality to 18th-
or 19th- Century collections might be desirable in theory but in practice is
nearly impossible. Biological specimens are but a miniscule portion of the
wealth that colonial powers plundered from their colonies. Returning them
now will not change history. My own feeling is that we should institute a
just system now and ensure that it is perpetuated henceforth, but to resign
ourselves to the injustices of the past without trying in vain to correct
them. This would not correct the ills of the past, only create new conflicts
for the future.
    As for the tone of the previous comments on this subject, I noted
irrational prejudice on both sides. There are, indeed, bombs in poor
countries and poorly maintained institutions in rich ones. Let us deal with
facts, not stereotypes.

Joseph Laferriere
Biosphere 2
joseph at bio2.com




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