Taking the hiss

Monday, 28 July 2014

Why did the policeman cross the road? is a book about solving problems, big and small. Many examples are from my time in the police. But many others are from wholly different areas of work and, indeed, from history and from around the world. Here's a short extract and an example of what can happen if you opt for the quick fix without considering the repercussions:

‘Let’s imagine that a member of your tribe or village suffers a fatal venomous snake bite. Your gut reaction tells you to kill every snake you see. Simple. Effective. No more snake bites. You’ve solved your immediate problem.

But how many of those snakes were actually venomous? And what if some species control the rat population? You could end up with a much bigger problem because rats carry potentially fatal communicable diseases such as leptospirosis, typhus, salmonella, meningitis and bubonic plague. And, as a rat’s gestation period is just 22 days and a youngster can breed at just five weeks old, that’s a whole new generation born every month. Without any natural checks from predators, the numbers are going to explode.

Thea Litschka-Koen runs a charity in Swaziland, Africa, to protect the deadly black mamba snake. ‘Almost every day I fight the same fight, try and explain the same thing … that 20,000 families could not survive without snakes’, she explains. ‘I work with snakebite victims and families who have lost children, husbands, mothers etc. and it breaks my heart. But I also understand that without snakes in the sugarcane and maize fields the rodents would destroy the crops and people would starve.’

The ill-considered quick fix can leave youwith a bigger problem than you started with.’

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Publication date: May 2016
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