In our work and in our living, we must recognize that difference is a reason for celebration and growth, rather than a reason for destruction. —Audre Lorde
Typically, when we talk about human violence, we’re talking about our tendency to want to destroy each other. Syria. Yemen. Iraq. Afghanistan. North Korea. Chicago. Our propensity toward killing each other is nothing new, of course. We’ve been doing it for centuries. Misinterpret some religious texts and one can even attempt to justify their destruction of another people by claiming that their deity commanded them to wipe out everyone who does not worship as they do. We’re very good and very experienced when it comes to wiping each other off the face of the earth.
As we’ve become more advanced in our ways of killing each other, such as using drones so that we don’t have to actually face those on whom we drop bombs, we’ve also become better at destroying every non-human entity as well. Species and ecosystems that have existed for thousands of years have become targets of destruction to such a degree that many have already gone extinct with hundreds more in danger. We justify our destruction of the planet with various excuses, saying we need the energy from natural resources or the food from various species. Yet, our wanton decimation of these ecosystems could leave us with nothing but a barren wasteland of a planet that is no longer capable of sustaining our own lives, much less any other.
A new report from the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) makes clear just how horribly destructive we’ve been and how threatening the dangers are. By killing everything around us, we’re dooming ourselves to destruction.
Say Goodbye To The Animals
We typically associate the WWF with its broad efforts to protect animal life across the planet. They certainly do the best they can, but their efforts are no match for the determined march of corporate interests. As a result, we’re losing animal life at an unprecedented rate. The statement that’s been making headlines is this one:
Populations of vertebrate animals—such as mammals, birds, and fish—have declined by 58% between 1970 and 2012. And we’re seeing the largest drop in freshwater species: on average, there’s been a whopping 81% decline in that time period.
Stop and think about those numbers a minute. We have less than half the animals we did in 1970. It took us less than fifty years to rip through the entire animal population of the planet, completely devastating whole species who have survived natural changes in environment for hundreds of thousands of years. Many of the species we’ve eliminated existed prior to the evolution of homo sapiens and even through the first several thousand years of our existence. Yet, in less time than it takes for a single human generation to pass through history, we have destroyed all of them.
Most damning is what we’ve done to freshwater species. 81 percent of freshwater species are gone! Do you realize how fucking close to complete extermination of freshwater life we’ve come in a simple 42 years? And for what? So we can build our hydro-electric dams, strip mine coal, and place water-contaminating oil pipelines in places they’ve no right to be in the first place. Understand, prior to 1970 we still had the same power needs, but we somehow managed to not kill off EIGHTY-ONE FUCKING PERCENT of freshwater species. Hope you’re enjoying that fresh trout and other fish because they could all be completely gone within the next twenty years if we continue at our current rate.
How Did We Do This?
Obviously, we didn’t commit such broad destruction across the planet by going through and killing every animal one by one. While poaching and illegal fishing are certainly part of the problem, there are many other factors that have contributed to this dramatic decline in animal species. I’ll let the folks at WWF explain:
Numbering Our Own Days
How long do you plan on living? If you’re under the age of forty, chances are very high you’ll live well into your 80s, and quite possibly another decade beyond that. Think of all it is gong to take to support your life over that period of time. Think of the amount of food you’ll need to consume. What is going to be the source of that food? Think about the clothes you’ll need to wear. What is going to be the source of the materials necessary to make those clothes? Think about all the energy you’ll need to consume to power a life that is increasingly dependent upon electronic devices. How are we going to source all that power?
To the extent that we continue to destroy everything and everyone with whom we come into contact, we are numbering our own days. We cannot continue to live on a planet that has been scorched by our carelessness. Realize, we have already KILLED OVER HALF OF ALL SPECIES that existed in 1970. If we continue at that rate, we might have 40 years before everything is gone. Where does that leave us?
This is why your down-ballot votes matter. Your vote for Congressperson matters as that is where funding and policy decisions are made to help stop the destruction. Your vote for state legislature matters as state policies are frequently to blame for the continued destruction for fresh waterways. Your vote for city offices matter as local policies contribute heavily to the contamination of groundwater and the destruction of local resources. These are all things that the President can’t control. While your vote for that office is important, without your vote for all the other down-ballot offices the vote for President becomes practically meaningless.
For all the talk about colonizing Mars, the fact remains that, for at least the next 75 years, we are limited to one planet; a planet we are actively bent upon destroying. Perhaps it’s time we started paying more attention to the earth around us. If we don’t, we will die; it’s just that simple.