Mammoth Ivory and the Ivory Carving Industry


I just found out through this article that mammoth tusks are being dug out of the thawing permafrost in the arctic by the thousands. They are sold to the ivory carving industry in China at $1,900 per kilogram. The growing Chinese middle class has a voracious appetite for ivory jewelry. Paleontologists are suggesting that this perfectly legal practice should become illegal to protect the not yet extinct elephant.

There are several statements of fact in this article that I found alarming:

  1. I didn’t know there was such a thing as an “ivory carving industry.” Of course, now that I think about it, it makes sense, but it had never crossed my mind before.
  2. The elephant is doomed. The Chinese are just starting to get wealthy, and there are many of them. The ivory carving industry isn’t going to back off as long as a single tusk remains. The country where reportedly 4,000 people die every day because of air pollution isn’t going to care about regulating its consumption of a commodity that is harvested in another continent on the other side of the globe. As long as there are Chinese with money, elephants will be hunted – more than ever, as they become more rare and therefore more expensive.
  3. Global warming is thawing the permafrost. A few decades ago it was difficult to find any mammoths. Now, it seems, you can go out there with a shovel and dig for tusks and sell them for a fortune. There is a significant movement still in the United States and the rest of the world that is “denying” global warming. They say that just because glaciers are melting at unprecedented rates, and permafrost is melting in the arctic, it does not mean that the warming is man-made. It’s just a natural occurrence, like it has happened many times in history. The fact that it’s been 800,000 years since we had 400 ppm of CO2 in the atmosphere, as we do now, is not enough evidence. Since it’s not man-made, why worry about it. Keep burning that oil!

I am at a loss for suggestions on how to save the elephant, other than save some DNA so we can clone them later, along with the mammoth.

You Are Here – by Thomas Kostigen

The subtitle is:

Exposing the Vital Link Between What We Do and What That Does to Our Planet.

I learned a tremendous amount reading this book. Systematically the author walks us through exotic places and shows us the adverse effect of human activity on the planet, in areas where we’d  never expect it.

I am a skeptic. I don’t fall for fads. But let me tell you this:

  1. I am going to review my personal use of electricity.
  2. I changed my thoughts on how to do the dishes.
  3. Water use (or abuse) has a different meaning.
  4. Paper and recycling (or rather, not printing  that page of paper in the first place) has new meaning to me now.
  5. I am going to be more careful about recycling my garbage.
  6. I will watch product labels and origins more carefully.

The list goes on.

The book is very readable and written in a no nonsense style. He just makes sense.

Go the Kostigan’s Web Site and get more information and updates, and be amazed about some of the asinine negative comments.

Thank you, Chelsea, for giving me this book for Christmas. It made an impact.


A few days after I first published this post, I ran into this picture on MSN, which references one of locales a chapter of the book is dedicated to.