Humans are changing the planet. Those that deny this are fools. But there are certain things that we’re simply accelerating, rather than worsening, or destroying. Several different species, including Pandas, are fading fast. But in our attempt to save them from extinction, we neglect the rest…
Chris Packham is a rare variety of the lesser spotted English naturalist, rare in the sense that he dares to have an opinion that doesn’t revolve around the emotive, overly sentimental drivel people bizarrely seem to expect, despite the best efforts of Sir David Attenborough, and he instead focuses of the economics of nature, and in turn, the ruthless rules of natural selection.
To this end, he had the temerity to voice an entirely sensible opinion regarding the even lesser spotted Panda, and explain to the egregious masses, clutching their cuddly Panda soft toys, that the aforementioned is essentially a lost cause and a money pit, and that conservationists should spend what little money they do have on those animals that can actually be saved from political pressures, war, poaching, human encroachment, as well as environmental, ecological and biological Armageddon.
As you can imagine, his views were about as welcome as a fart in a lift traveling non stop to the toy section of a department store, where people are hoping to buy a cuddly toy Panda, presumably.
So here’s my attempt to give some more meat to the bones of Packham’s Panda argument, in equally simple and blunt terms.
The extinction of common sense
Organisms are allowed to go extinct. It happens. And, it’s been happening routinely for over three and half billion years, which just happens to be the approximate amount of time life has been present on Earth.
If organisms didn’t go extinct, things would be quite different and very unpleasant. If we choose to ignore the more recent fauna and flora or the past one hundred and twenty millions years or so, and ignoring just about everything prior to that, right back to the primordial broth of bacteria of say, two billion years ago, if all bacterial life had survived, the entire planet would be a seething gelatinous mass of snot-like goo, many tens of miles deep.
We humans didn’t invent environment pressure, that’s something that has almost always existed — there is nearly always some other organism competing for the same space as another. Who survives is a combination of factors, including blind chance (as was the case with the mammals just after the Chicxulub impact of some sixty five million years ago, which dispensed with most of the large reptiles of the period). As a broad rule though, it’s the strongest that survive.
The meek won’t inherit the Earth, despite what effete and fanciful nonsense you may have be told at Sunday School, unless luck is on their side. And even then, their meekness will be the basis of their demise at some later date.
We humans survive and thrive because we are incredibly adaptable, versatile, agile, omnivorous, dexterous and intelligent. Any one of those attributes is enough for any one organism to eek out an existence. Well we have them all. And here we are, at the top of the tree of life, shittin’ on everything else, or at least what we haven’t eaten, or hunted for sport, or turned into furniture.
The most remarkable thing is, what we’re doing isn’t unnatural. And I’m sure many of you will recoil in horror when I say we are simply doing what all other animals do, and are predisposed to do.
When was the last you saw a dog, or a Panda for the matter, pick up it’s own shit, pop it in a bag and dispose of it in a more environmentally responsible way? Aside from some odd kids animated movie perhaps, you didn’t, nor will you. If we had seven billion dogs shitting, we’d have a problem, wouldn’t we? Of course we would.
Humans make a mess, as do all other forms of life. The problem is in 1. our sheer number, and 2. that we have broken from the more natural order of things, that might have mitigated some of this mess, while finally 3. we don’t just shit to make a mess anymore.
The bear truth about Pandas
So what about the Panda? Well, it’s likely that the Panda is an evolutionary dead end. Doomed to extinction by its eating habits, or even its habitat, or perhaps both. As I said, extinction happens and is an inexorable force of nature.
It is also likely that we have hastened the extinction of the Panda, but you could also argue that pressures placed upon the Panda could very well have forced our usurped ursine to evolve and adapt. Clearly this is not the case. In this case, the agents of change are too powerful and rapid. In the words of Packham himself: “That’s evolution, adapt to changes or die out.”
An evolution of human stupidity
Sadly, people are mostly stupid and they make emotional decisions. This is the reason why successive governments of various countries (with the obvious exception of China, ironically enough) daren’t even consider imposing a limit on the number of children each couple can have. It is, after all, the logical decision, which would have an almost immediate impact on the growing human population.
There are a ton of aid agencies working to remediate the infant mortality rate in places like India, but we’re doing relatively very little to educate people enough to have less kids. Hindering those efforts, Catholic missionaries are teaching those same people that contraception is wrong. It is no coincidence the most populous regions on Earth, such as Africa and Asia, are those that are most deeply influenced by Catholicism.
So the natural forces that would keep the population down are being disrupted by well-meaning but largely stupid people and the human population of the Earth is then left to grow out of control, and unchecked.
Economics usually has the final word, but no one is listening, because people are mostly stupid and they make emotional decisions.
We are at a point in time where we are beyond incremental changes. To make the changes that are required to save the planet from the human race, we must undertake extreme and exceptional measures. But no one is listening.
So ignore me and ignore Packham. Do what the good book tells you and go forth and multiply. And at same time, say “Fuck you, too!” to every other living thing, including the Pandas of this world, because if we’re too stupid to save ourselves, what the hell kind of chance is there for anything else…