X pays tribute to all those critters who’ve gone before, and those who are on the verge of going soon, unless we act.
X – as in no longer. Ex-spouse, ex-job, ex-pat, ex-tinct. Or my favourite, ex-pert (ex as in has been, spurt as in a drip under pressure).
Extinction is a necessary part of the evolutionary process. Can you imagine how dangerous life might be if there had never been any extinctions? There you are, driving the daily commute, when a traffic announcement interrupts your favourite tunes:
“Anyone headed into the city via the Redmoor Bridge route might want to look for an alternative. The Brontosaurus migration is underway and the dino-swing bridge is expected to remain open for the next several days.”
A report on the 6 o’clock news ran this feature:
Animal welfare groups are campaigning against the proposed genus specific legislation which would outlaw the ownership of any velociraptor. The genus has become the gang member accessory of choice in recent years, replacing the Pit Bull in the public perception of dangerous animals. Animal activists, meanwhile, claim that velociraptors make excellent pets, and their aggressive tendencies have been exaggerated by Hollywood film makers and poor training of captive animals.
Blue Gideon, representing the Rapturous Raptors Rescuers, had this to say, “Velos are the ideal pet, hypoallergenic but soft with their feathery coats. This hype about raptor attacks is way exaggerated. In all my years of owning velos, I’ve only seen a handful of bites. Worst anyone suffered was a couple of fingers off, maybe an arm.”
Okay, so extinction is a necessary part of life and has been happening since the Earth was still a baby nestling in the arms of old man Saturn. Cataclysmic asteroid impacts and climactic change cleansed the earth with fire and ice leaving behind a fresh new world to be populated anew. Sometimes evolutionary paths turned into cul-de-sacs – the Big Guy’s science experiments gone wrong.
Species have come and gone throughout time, but the greatest cause of species extinction in recent times has been due to a particularly predatory, parasitic and highly adaptive species – homo sapiens. Centuries ago Mankind (sexism deliberate) hunted animals to extinction through ignorance (Carrier Pigeon Pie or Dodo kebab, anyone?).
Today, we are far too advanced to hunt for our food. Instead we are destroying our planetary brethren by terra-forming their environment – asset stripping the Amazon, polluting Alberta’s waterways for oil, flooding vast tracts of China for hydro power. These actions decimate habitats and destroy food sources. Our increasingly industrial world is turning up the thermostat of the Earth. This will spell the end of plant species such as the Joshua Tree, reliant on the yucca moth for fertilisation – the moth cannot survive the higher desert temperatures being seen today.
Naturally, no-one wants to see any animals disappear. Unless it’s mosquitoes, or cockroaches, or pretty much any insect. Though not butterflies or ladybirds, because those are pretty. Lots of people could live without spiders though. Snakes too – plenty of people would be happy with no snakes in the world. So really, we’re talking about the cute animals like pandas, tigers, elephants or otters.
For most people, out of sight is out of mind. The only time the plebeians see wild animals is on a documentary, in a movie or in Animal Kingdom. Even in the rural environs of DrewLlew Towers, sightings of native fauna are unusual. Although they chose to move here, many of the bipodal inhabitants are terrified of ‘nature’ encroaching on their manicured lifestyle. I’m convinced there are folk who live in fear of ninja pheasant attack, raccoon raids or porcupine partying.
So with such apathy abounding, I am grateful we have activists such as World Wildlife Fund who campaign tirelessly to maintain our natural order. Sure, they use the poster child pretty boys to tug at the heart-strings – Polar Bears to melt our icy indifference to Arctic warming, Tigers to tempt the pussy-lovers, Pandas – who can’t love a Panda? But WWF and their like follow a noble cause. Without these planetary advocates, our children’s children will live in a very different world to the one we enjoy today.
In the words of the Chinese philosopher Laozi (c 604 bc – c 531 bc),
“A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.”
My hope is that we will all take that first step to preserve the magnificent variety of life on Earth.
At least until the next asteroid strike.