Last night Kelly and I wanted to throw something on the laptop to watch in bed and fall asleep to. The BBC Planet Earth series is almost always the perfect choice, as Kelly is typically lights out within the first 5 mins, while I stay up and usually watch right through to the end since my fascination with the show always outweighs my need for sleep.
So last night I picked the last DVD out of the 5-disc series, and selected the episode called “Saving Species”. I’d seen it before, the opening shot taken from a helicopter showing a flock of some half a million birds all flying in one white mass of feathers over some unbelievably green landscape. It’s basically a mini-documentary about how urgent the need is for species conservation and they talk to the producers and videographers of the Planet Earth series as well as famous authors like E.O. Wilson (“The Creation”) and representatives from the World Wildlife Foundation. The message was very clear: “we can’t survive without the Earth’s incredible biodiversity, so it’s time to smarten up and stop trashing the places where plants and animals live, a.k.a EVERYWHERE”. One of the people interviewed in the show described the current crisis of species going extinct as knocking out individual bricks in a wall. One or two bricks doesn’t affect the wall, but sooner or later, if something doesn’t change, the wall will collapse.
Some conservationists estimate that within the next 5 decades, quite feasibly within my lifetime, close to half the planet’s species could be extinct or endangered!
Maybe this wasn’t the right episode to watch right before bed, because instead of leaving me awe-struck and in a state of dreamy wonderment as most Planet Earth shows do, this left me feeling angry and hopeless. Species that took millions of years to evolve into their current beauty, are being wiped out within a decade or two. They don’t come back. Extinct is forever. It made me want to switch careers (again) and become a naturalist and learn all I can about wildlife before it’s too late, or become a marine biologist and dedicate the rest of my working life to the preservation of marine ecosystems. It just really made me sad that more people aren’t aware of the destruction we inflict on the Earth’s natural systems. We are so used to the status quo that we’re numb to it’s side effects.
However, even though the last 50 years has brought about the worst environmental crimes in human history, it has also brought the beginnings of a major paradigm shift in which people are starting to see and respect the value that the Earth’s systems provide. The environmental revolution has had its stumbles already though. It’s as though the few people who did suddenly see the light in the 60’s and 70’s did such a terrible job of spreading their message that it has turned even more people off from conservation and environmentalists are just seen as hypocritical tree hugging hippies. Hey, that’s me. Yes, I’m a hypocrite. And so is anyone else who tells other people they should change their habits to help out Mother Earth. Because reality is, we all do things that are harmful to the planet, and we always will. But if we can spread a message of respect and love for this incredible planet without telling others that they’re bad people, then maybe we can bring about some real change that will at least reduce our footprint. “Sustainable Development” as one person on the show put it, “is an oxymoron. What we need to pursue, is a carefully calculated retreat”.
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