January 12, 2010

Keeping Our Planet Alive

Best idea ever.

For the first time I'm watching the last disk of the Planet Earth series, the disk that discusses how the planet has changed in recent years (recent being the last decade or so), how human habits have changed, and how animal populations have been affected by all this change.

This worst thing someone could tell me is that he believes global climate change is either nonexistent or not a big deal. It's incomprehensible how a person can be presented with the facts and still believe it's normal or scientists are making up figures. People who claim that climate change is normal and species are expected to go extinct as a natural occurrence do have a point, but they're incredibly uneducated about the natural occurrence of the earth's movements. Yes, Earth's climate will change and yes, species will inevitably go extinct naturally. What these people choose to ignore is the rate at which the climate and terrain is changing and the rate at which species, especially top predators and species which live in precarious environments, are going extinct. Sure, frogs will go the way of the dodo. But 1/3 of all amphibians have become endangered within the last decade. Not just a species here and there. One whole third of an entire fucking class of animals. That seems a bit extreme, doesn't it?

What also seems a bit extreme is the story of the saiga antelope. Please, click that link and look at the picture. Have you ever seen anything like it before? It's got the body of an antelope but the face of a tapir. Incredible. These creatures once formed one of the planets best migratory phenomenon, as many as 2 million individuals birthing and roaming in Eurasia. Within 3 years there were 40 times fewer antelope (50 thousand individuals) thanks to horn poaching for traditional Asian medicine. Sounds like the rhino*...

For a moment I will excuse the argument that we should be protecting animals and ecosystems for their own sakes. Unfortunately, the majority of people won't feel compelled to protect something they either can't relate to or can't care about, and the rest of the people won't feel compelled to protect something if doing so will negatively impact their livelihoods- anyone faced with the choice of protecting wildlife and feeding their children will choose their children. So the answer seems obvious, if nearly impossible: we must improve the world as a whole, not species by species or even ecosystem by ecosystem. Too many aspects of human life correlate to the planet's well being: population increases the world over are a huge cause of ecosystem decline, third world countries unable to help their citizens cannot help their animals, and humans needing space to grow food come into competition with wildlife, and wildlife always loses.

So we get charismatic animal ambassadors to change people's minds.

We could ignore all the damage we're doing to our planet because chances are by the time our generation and our grandchildren's generations have passed the planet will still be plugging along. But if we continue turning forests into pastures, continue poaching to extinction, continue fighting with wildlife rather than working with it like we're doing now, sooner rather than later there will be nothing left to keep the atmosphere from protecting us, nothing left to pollinate our crops, nothing left to flow into the oceans from the rivers, and the earth itself will die.

When I was born there were less than 5 billion people on the planet. Before my 26th birthday there could be 7 billion people. That's over 2 billion people in a quarter of a century. Is it just a coincidence that this extreme rate of reproduction in the one species that can so wholly affect the planet is inversely proportional to the extreme rate of destruction of animal and plant species and whole ecosystems? I doubt it. We've turned our habits around many times before and watched species come back from the brink of extinction and watched the atmosphere rebuild itself. It's time to take it to the next level and conserve the whole planet.

*When I looked at the key image for this page I thought, "Hey, that looks just like Angolifu!" It is Angolifu. That's awesome.

1 comment:

  1. I was babysitting on Sunday and the dad was talking about how kids these days are being brainwashed by things like Planet earth and March of the Penguins to think that the earth is in danger. And he said that Avatar is also "environmental propaganda". There are many out there, who you wouldn't even expect, that do not believe in global warming. I didn't say anything to him, he was having a conversation with another dad who agreed with him. But in my head I was thinking What the fuck? Planet earth is factual and simply documents the natural world. And its awesome.