“Until one has loved an animal, a part of one’s soul remains unawakened.” —Anatole France
The push to protect 30 percent of U.S. land and water by 2030 is vital and could be America’s last chance.
PUBLISHED: THE HILL: Changing America by Cyril Christo, Opinion Contributor | Originally published on April 22, 2021
Thirty-one species disappeared forever in 2020. Extinction being something we should eternally be ashamed of and which has full bearing on our future.
“Without the animals we will have nothing to return to,” said a Samburu elder whose clan had adopted a baby elephant from the frontier with Ethiopia generations ago. He also added, “Without them we will lose our minds.” Animals, the real treasure of the world, and the plants they depend on, are the foundation of existence. For the Samburu elephants were, in essence, part of their extended family. But as we have cleared forest for cows, there are almost a billion of them, and agriculture all over the planet, the human population has gained and the wild animal population has plummeted.
The elephant population is maybe a quarter of what it was when I was a teenager. The legal wildlife trade in which over 30,000 species are traded is worth $300 billion dollars. The animal kingdom simply cannot take it anymore.
The 6th extinction has taken over and we are the prime actors in an unfolding tragedy that will take down civilization as we know it, if we don’t alter our ways. We are, quite simply in an emergency as the Secretary General of the UN admonishes. Everything has to be rethought and acted upon to save what is left this decade.
Today would be a good time to examine the Simon-Ehrlich wager made in 1980. Paul Ehrlich, who wrote the “Population Bomb” in 1968 predicted a population catastrophe and worldwide famine. Julian Simon, a business professor, was skeptical of the claim and proposed a wager concerning metals and bet that a given commodity’s price would be lower a year later than it was at the time of the wager. Ehrlich, because of scarcity, thought nickel, copper, chromium, tin and tungsten would increase in price. A year later the prices had decreased. Ehrlich lost the bet, but if they had made a bet about animal populations, which have decreased 70 percent in the last half century, Ehrlich would have easily won.
More than three-quarters of large land predators (31 species) are in trouble, which is having a cascade effect on ecosystems worldwide. Seventeen of these are living on less than half the land they used to occupy. All over the world the story is the same: we are losing our larger mammals. The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Wildlife Services working for ranchers and agribusiness, kills 100,000 predators every year. So cows can gaze unmolested. And so rangers have something to target as they have for the last several hundred years. But a ban on wildlife killing contests targeting coyotes and swift foxes just passed recently in Colorado and five other Western states. A major step in the right direction, especially considering some of their favorite food, rodents, carry such things as the bubonic plague. Marine ecosystems with sharks that are caught every year by the millions, are being affected.
The Chinese market and penchant for jaguar, lion, tiger, leopard, black bear and polar bear parts among many other species borders on the depraved. Their assault on the fish stocks near the fragile Galapagos ecosystem should never have been allowed and cannot be overlooked. As fisheries are collapsing in the seven seas, new mandates have to start being implemented in what is an out of control situation for fish stocks everywhere.