Think saving endangered animals by killing other animals is ironic, controversial, and confusing? What about saving the environment by killing animals — and turning their fur into an eco-fashion statement? That’s right — There are environmental conservationists who’d like you to wear fur — and they’re make a rather attractive argument, with the help of Oscar de la Renta, no less.
That’s the story covered in the latest issue of On Earth, the magazine from green nonprofit Natural Resources Defense Council. The furry animal in question: An invasive swamp rat called nutria — a rodent that loves eating marsh vegetation and has been destroying Louisiana’s coastal wetlands. The fashion-forward environmentalist: Michael Massimi, Barataria-Terrebonne National Estuary Program’s the invasive-species coordinator. The controversial eco-initiative: Make nutria fur a fashion item, thereby killing nutria to make fashion, thereby restoring Louisiana’s wetlands.
The attempt to make nutria fur fashionable for an enviro-cause is extra ironic because it’s actually the attractiveness of nutria fur that spawned the overpopulation of nutria in the first place. According to On Earth, “The nutria was originally imported from South America to Louisiana in the 1930s for its fur.” Then some nutria either escaped or were released — and started causing serious problems after its fur fell out of fashion until the 1980s.
The problem got so bad that the State of Louisiana started paying people to kill nutria — giving out $5 rewards for each nutria killed. But those dead nutria were just getting thrown away — which is why Michael Massimi got the fashionable idea of at least putting the nutria pelts to good use.
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