Socialism in the botanical garden: Why Venezuela can't have nice things

Is there anything awful socialism can't do?

Reuters has an excellent piece (other than omitting the 's' word) about the terrible fate of Venezuela's priceless botanical garden in Caracas.

CARACAS (Reuters) - Dead palm trees and a dried-up lagoon are what you see when you enter Caracas’s botanical garden. A UNESCO World Heritage site and once one of the city’s most important tourist spots, its directors are trying to rescue it from abandonment.

Yes, I know, the country has far more hellish problems with people starving, fleeing, running out of water, and using machetes on one another to fight for garbage scraps.

But the destruction of nature is terrible, too. The botanical garden doesn't even rate as high as zoo animals starving on the mercy scale, yet it's deeply disturbing. The Reuters story says the famed Moriche palms of the area have crumbled and dried up, along with one third of its palms. The gargantuan Santa Cruz water lilies, with pads so huge they can support a small child, have all died. Socialist price and currency controls, along with free-spending inflation, last seen clocking in at north of 41,000%, has left the garden with a $66 (with no zeros) operating budget. It obviously is not going to survive unless there's regime change.

I find this immensely sad. It's part of a long continuum of socialist war with nature, the warlike result that gave us the ruin of Aral Sea, the black rivers of China, the ugliness of Norilsk nickel, and the wasteland of Cuba's once prominent citrus groves and tobacco fields. Now it's hit Venezuela, and not just the oil fields, and not just the nature reserves, described here in 2005. I actually went to the damaged Venezuelan nature reserve described in that last link, Hato Pinero, in December 2005, and saw the damage, learning how the estate, located on a wetland area unsuitable for agriculture was lovingly documented, preserved in vast chronicle books by its earliest naturalists, and then how Chavista greed and meddling left the estate defenseless as the then-starving locals were eating the parrots. I recall that the owners told me the land held some of the oldest geological formations on the continent and so much knowledge was being lost as the estate was ravage and the ecological structure was disrupted. How very very sad to see it go, first in the wilderness estates, and now in the showcase botanical garden.

No nation with this kind of bounteous natural treasure should not have some kind of botanical garden to showcase its wonders, reminding the country of its vast inheritance, delighting its visitors, and teaching kids about it. In any normal society, even a poor one, a botanical garden is always possible. Just not a socialist one.

Will Bernie Sanders and his new sidekick, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez ever notice that? Don't hold your breath. And the greenies, of course, are perfectly silent.

Image Credit: Bernard DuPont, via Flickr // CC By-SA 2.0

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