Focusing on the “staggeringly obvious”

Bryan Christy, author of this month’s National Geographic cover story “Blood Ivory,” takes exception on Twitter to this editorial cartoon, which appeared last Friday in the Star Sun (Philippines):

But dismissing the cartoon as “racist” misses the main point, which is sharpened in the accompanying editorial:

China, Not The Philippines

IN NATIONAL Geographic magazine’s cover story, “Blood Ivory,” writer Bryan Christy attempted to rationalize his over-emphasis on the veneration by Catholics in Cebu and the Philippines of religious icons, some of them sculpted from ivory, this way:

“The Philippines’ ivory market is small compared with, say, China’s, but it is centuries old and staggeringly obvious.”

It’s a pathetic rationalization simply because it covers up the real reason for the recent upsurge in the global demand for ivory that resulted in the mass slaughter of elephants in Africa. …

The Philippines’ ivory market maybe “staggeringly obvious,” but per Christy’s admission, it is “small” and “centuries old,” meaning it could not have propped up the recent upsurge in the demand for ivory that resulted in the mass slaughter of elephants in Africa.

So where is this upsurge in demand coming from? A straightforward story on the same topic is The New York Times’ “Elephants Dying in Epic Frenzy as Ivory Fuels Wars and Profits” (published on Sept. 3, 2012).

The New York Times, quoting experts, said as much as 70 percent of the illegal ivory flows to China. It added: “China’s economic boom has created a vast middle class, pushing the price of ivory to a stratospheric $1,000 per pound on the streets of Beijing.” …

“China is the epicenter of demand,” Robert Hormats, a senior State Department official, was quoted by The New York Times. “Without the demand from China, this (the ivory trade) would all but dry up.”

Knowing context proves the kind of disservice Christy’s National Geographic article brought on the religious in Cebu and the Philippines. By using the Philippines as a jump-off point for his discussion of the global ivory trade, he made the country look guiltier than, say, China, for the slaughter of elephants in Africa.



Chris Johns & Terry Adamson celebrate with our Society’s new publishing partners in the People’s Republic of China (2007).

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