Let’s face it, most people don’t care much about the environment today, let alone in the future. We may have a fleeting concern about reports in the news of melting icecaps or disappearing tigers and chopped down rain forests, until we’re easily distracted by the need to cook dinner, get to an important meeting or just watch some mind-numbing rubbish on the television.
But one phrase that keeps cropping up in my mind is the Biblical quote about `Man having dominium over every living thing on the earth’. If God had an Environment Minister, that phrase would have been struck out of the Bible for being utterly misunderstood by humans who think it means we can trash anything we like because it’s ours to play with. After all, we `rule’ the earth.
So how well are we doing? Do we continue to have a flourishing and expanding bio diversity? I think you’ve guessed the answer. Here in Britain a recent State of Nature report said 60% of animals and plants have been in decline over the past 50 years. And Britain has lost a staggering 97% of ALL its wildflower meadows since the 1930s. Another 3% to go and we’ll hit the enviro-trashers jackpot.
And on a global scale, it’s not looking too rosy either. You’ve probably heard about deforestation, deserts becoming wider and drier and rising sea levels. But I wasn’t aware until recently of the increase of incidents involving the massacre of elephants in Africa. Reports of militia using AK-47s and night vision glasses to hack off the heads of elephants for ivory, whilst infant elephants were left for dead. These massacres are purely to supply ivory for chopsticks and the like. And just before Christmas, another example of our madness, as the last known wild tiger in China was killed and eaten by a villager.
And yet bizarrely whilst most of us are resigned to this mess, we continue to be inspired by snapshots of nature. We can watch David Attenborough for an hour, sitting there in awe and wonder at our planet’s brilliant mosaic of life. But moments later we’ll do something directly helping to destroy it: like drive to the shop just 10 minutes walk away , or boast about cut price long haul flights – without a second thought for the destruction we’re contributing in our own little way, which combined with everyone else, could eventually lead to the demise of our own species due to lack of habitat and too few resources.
Contradiction or denial?
I can clearly remember a few years ago when I was driving through Streatham in south London behind an enormous tailback with nothing moving. My head was telling me it was everyone else’s fault that the High Road had ground to a halt. “Who are these idiots all needing to go somewhere?” I thought, until I realised that I was also part of the problem. Did I really need my car for that journey? I could have walked in half the time if I hadn’t been so lazy.
I’ve been surprised by how so many friends, family and neighbours drive their children to school when its only a short walk away and yet will complain about all the traffic. On the flip side, they’ll complain that kids can’t play on our streets anymore, whilst insisting it’s their right to drive down every damn road whenever they want and often at whatever speed they want. They just don’t see the link.
Maybe we could blame Capitalism – it certainly deserves some accolade in the creation/destruction process with its constant urge to consume and make a profit at whatever cost. But ultimately it’s us – mothers, fathers, brothers, sisters, grandparents et al – who are aiding and abetting this destruction even if not intentionally.
There’s no easy solution. Friends often cite that until China does something about pollution etc, there’s no point in us doing anything. That’ll clear their guilt, but it’s an abdication. In some ways I don’t blame them. But it’s quite sad to think about the potential long-term consequences.
I grant you that the pace of modern life makes it increasingly difficult for people to make those little changes that, combined with others, will help protect and boost our environment. But with our planet experiencing the worst extinction of species since the dinosaurs were wiped out 65 million years ago, it makes me think that if we’re not careful, we’ll go back to the future – a kind of medieval brutal world with few luxuries and a biblical struggle for survival.
Forecast the future
So “who will run the earth once humans have gone?”, as my friend asked. I don’t blame him for his flawed thinking. It was a comedy moment when I realised just how little people think about things and the dangers that follow if we humans big ourselves up too much. We are an incredible species – noted from our exploration into space, planes, high speed trains, the internet and technology.
Maybe I should take a withering leaf out of other people’s books and not give a moments extra thought about what we are doing to our planet. Especially as it’s often the parents of children who seem have the largest carbon footprint. If they’re not bothered – and they’ve got kids – why should I worry?
But equally, at this pace of plundering, one day the planet might just decide that OUR time is up.
- Lord’s Resistance Army funded by elephant poaching, report finds (guardian.co.uk)
- Elephants are Dying for Your Sins (atheismafrica.wordpress.com)
- African elephants face extinction ‘within a decade’ (itv.com)
- Why a Hotter World Will Mean More Extinctions (science.time.com)