Saturday, March 21, 2015

The authentic invasive species

Several days ago I received some material from the Sierra Club reminding me to renew my membership, which I had let lapse for a couple of years. What caught my attention however was a short letter that was included in the membership material. The letter read as follows:

“Dear Human:

Imagine that, little by little, your home was taken away from you. The forests and mountains where you once roamed freely disappeared, replaced by roads and concrete buildings.

What if politicians in suits, someplace far away, decided your fate … decided that you, your family, your friends, and neighbors had become a nuisance—a menace—to those who had invaded your home?

And so now, you must die.

Imagine these politicians rallying for your slaughter … ignoring what science has told them, encouraging citizens to hunt you down and kill you.

Imagine your family under attack. Defenseless, with nowhere left to hide, you must dodge bullets from the ground and sky, just to find food for yourself and your young children.

Imagine that, in one of these public hunts, you watched your offspring die.

Then you will know the terror that wolves face every day … and why we so desperately need your help.

After all, you and your fellow humans are the only ones who can save us. Our fate is in your hands.

So I hope you will answer this cry for help. You are our only hope. And time is running out ….”

Murder for fun, profit and prestige

The late, great comedian George Carlin once remarked that we humans can't destroy the Earth. The planet will deal with us without difficulty. I remain optimistic that after humankind vanishes (at least the current variety of Homo sapiens), the remaining life on Earth, as science writer Michael Tennesen says, “ will survive, adapt, diversify, and proliferate.”

I don't want to think that the combination of our technology, slow evolutionary development and general ignorance could actually turn our planet into an uncompromising nightmare like that offered up by the novelist Cormac McCarthy in his novel The Road.

Yet, regardless of whether or not we humans do ourselves in sometime in the future, the mind numbing misery we're inflicting on other species right now is appalling. It is conceivable that up to 50 percent of plant and animal species could have gone extinct by the end of the century. Unlike other mass extinctions, the principal cause this time will most likely be humankind. There's a reason that most scientists refer to our current geologic age as Anthropocene.

Wide areas of Asia currently, because of official corruption, greed, ignorance and even what is casually called “cultural” cuisine, are destroying plant and animal life across the planet at an astonishing rate. We humans have become like the invasive plant kudzu on steroids.

While we collectively—with some notable exceptions—have been killing and destroying most everything around us for thousands of years, it was far less noticeable before the industrial age and a global population under two billion. But now, with a population of more than 7 billion humans and increasing, we are destroying life on Earth on an industrial scale, seemingly unaware of its consequences for us.

So what ought we to do? One possibility certainly is that we may not be able to do anything in time. Fields like neuroscience and behavioral genetics have provided considerable insight in how humans think and process information and why we often do what we do ... but, the “so what” question however can't be tossed aside.

How do we confront, educate and find the resources fast enough to turn the human death cult into a manageable problem at the very least. Cowboy yahoos in the American West, clueless Chinese bourgeoisie desperate for the “bling” of ivory and other human predators are not going away anytime soon.

Maybe it does begins with trying to understand what the wolf could be thinking as he stares at his dead cub bleeding to death from the gunshot wound. Maybe we have to find better ways to talk to narcissistic Homo sapiens. Anyway, I renewed my membership in the Sierra Club. Giving up can't be an option.

For an unvarnished assessment of wildlife destruction read The Politics of Extinction. Getting angry is good but then come up with a plan. We need one right away.

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