EXAMPLES OF GROTESQUE ABSURDITY
> They eventually burned more than 3000 lots of whale tissue and a couple
> hundred lots of other specimens. Part of the problem was our
> inability to locate a Material Safety Data Sheet about it (generic
> home-made solutions).
The story told by Judith A. Fournier of what happened at the Canadian
Museum of Nature in matters of Bouin preserved samples (one ingredient
being picric acid) is one more illustration of the excesses that result when
well-intentioned but inadequte regulations invented by incompetent
bureaucrats for their own satisfaction are blindly applicated. Below I will
provide other examples.
As for picric acid (yellow crystals), this is a molecule similar to TNT
(roughly: C6-cycle with NO2 groups) and in early times has been used
as an explosive. For various reasons, TNT was preferred and picric acid
subsisted in the histologists' world as a very useful product. In order to
get a good explosion, you need a good quantity of dry picric acid and an
initial detonator (if you have the latter, you can also play with a mixture of
ammonium nitrate and diesel fuel - get the precise recipe from
Oklahoma). It is totally unlikely that your Bouin preserved polychaetes will
detonate spontaneously like a space shuttle.
Well, I promised other stories of radical nonsense applications.
A few years ago I heard the following in Germany (Land Hessen).
Schools often had some stuffed specimens of the local fauna already
shown to many generations of pupils, e.g. some fox, hare, rat, bird, etc.
In former times traces of arsenic were used to preserve the hides, fur
and feathers against mites. That does not mean that the animals were
stuffed or covered with it. Nevertheless, bureaucrats thought of sending a
safety commission to all schools, enquiring about stuffed animals and
having all those removed that could not show an arsenic-free certificate.
For destruction as highly toxic stuff. From all evidence, pupils were
expected to lick and suck those stuffed animals all over. Given the ability
of bureaucrats to invade and paralyse whatever domaine of life and
society, we can be confident that the projected action against this danger
for public health has been executed.
Then let's take some aspects of CITES (Convention on International
Trade of Endangered Species of wild fauna and flora). Scleractinian
corals occur worldwide, from the edge of Antarctica to Norway and
Greenland, from the tidal zone to some 6000 meters depth. There are at
least 1200 presently known species according to a recent census and
many still undescribed species. Part of them contributes to the tropical
coral reefs. It was probably with the intention to labour for reef protection,
that an international bunch of bureaucrates inscribed, in 1990, ALL
Scleractinian Corals on Annexe II to CITES.
All are thus appointed endangered species. That's as if ALL mammals,
including plague bearing rats and Australian rabbits, would benefit of the
status of protected species because of the panda and the rhinoceros
My personal experience: As early as 1993 an estimated colleague, the
curator of corals at the Smithsonian Institution, asked me to loan some
corals for a thesis project. That thesis has been completed in 1996. Ever
since I expected to have the specimens returned to me, but the curator
has not been able to do so: the samples have been sequestrated by the
S.I. administration because of "illegal importation of endangered
species"! Explanation: The 1990 CITES regulation concerning corals
widely passed unnoticed for a number of years among scientists involved
with research on these organisms, including at the S.I. That's why the
coral samples were sent by me and received by the S.I. without special
formalities as any other marine biology samples would have been sent
and received. Likewise, they were expected to return without fuss. But
after the S.I. administration discovered that CITES regulation, my loaning
the samples has been considered as a serious crime, and my repeated
request addressed to the Secretary of the S.I. to have the samples
returned caused a considerable stir among the bureaucracy and was
zealously opposed. Maybe that the "illegally imported" specimens are
waiting to be destroyed like the Bouin-preserved worms in Canada, the
stuffed hares in Germany, and like vulgar drugs seized by the customs.
Scientists of all countries unite in order to resist the grotesque
absurdities invented by brain-deficient bureaucrats!
(Centre d'Oceanologie de Marseille)
Station Marine d'Endoume
Rue Batterie des Lions
13007 Marseille / France
E-MAIL: hzibrowi at com.univ-mrs.fr
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