More than half the world’s species gone in less than 40 years? Say it ain’t so!

Run away, run away!

Wildebeest fleeing waterhole

But apparently it is, according to the World Wildlife Fund. Check out this article:

http://www.theguardian.com/environment/2014/sep/29/earth-lost-50-wildlife-in-40-years-wwf

Humanity’s “ecological footprint” (‘the scale at which it is using up natural resources’) is growing faster than the shoes the earth has available to fit it. According to the article: “Currently, the global population is cutting down trees faster than they regrow, catching fish faster than the oceans can restock, pumping water from rivers and aquifers faster than rainfall can replenish them and emitting more climate-warming carbon dioxide than oceans and forests can absorb.” This is scary. And what’s scarier is that I see it every day now.

The first time I visited Hluhluwe-iMfolozi, in northern Zululand, I was bowled over by the number of elephants, buffalo and rhino I saw. In some ways I was not surprised by the many rhino, as this park was the main reason the southern white rhino and the black rhino still exist, thanks to the efforts of Dr Ian PlayerMagqubu Ntombela and the rest of the dedicated park team. (As an aside, for more on Dr Player and team’s monumental efforts, check out this NY Times article: http://www.nytimes.com/glogin?URI=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.nytimes.com%2F2014%2F12%2F04%2Fworld%2Fafrica%2Fian-player-conservationist-who-helped-save-white-rhinos-dies-at-87.html%3F_r%3D0) However, a few weeks ago I returned to HiP, after 2 1/2 years away, and I was shocked at what I saw. Three buffalo total. About ten elephant. And a handful of white rhino. No black rhino. But it wasn’t just that. It was that I barely saw any wildlife, period. Even the antelope were scarce.

Where have they all gone? We know the answer, to some extent, when it comes to the rhino and the elephant. But it isn’t just poaching. It’s loss of habitat. It’s ignorance and greed. It’s rampant consumerism at the cost of our natural resources. It’s overpopulation. It’s unsustainable practices. The list goes on and on. I’m sure you’ve probably heard it all before.

In South Africa, I see verdant green hills, sapphire-blue seas and myriad brambles of thorn. But I also see piles of trash on the side of the road. I see power outages because of poor use of electricity and theft (among other issues). I see leaky pipes wherever I go. When I really start to look around, I see this article everywhere. And if you stop and look around, I guarantee you will too. This WWF article is hitting like a prizefighter in the final round. Houston, we have a problem.

How do you feel knowing that we’ve lost so many species in less than a decade? I know it makes me feel pretty terrible. And it’s the reason I make the choices I make each day to do little things that I know can go a long way. I can’t change the world completely, but I know I can help. Each person matters.

We ourselves feel that what we are doing is just a drop in the ocean. But the ocean would be less because of that missing drop. – Mother Theresa

So what will you do to help put an end to the mass extermination of the planet’s life?

There are plenty of ways to get involved as well as plenty of things you can do on your own, each and every day. And it doesn’t have to mean donating to causes (though that does help, provided it’s a viable cause that actually puts the money to proper use – more on that at a later time).

Here’s one big thing you can do to make a positive impact: stop and pay attention.

Pay attention to your actions: where you source the items you buy, from food to clothes to electronics, etc; what your habits are when it comes to using (and/or abusing) resources; what your level of knowledge is about the world around you, and what you choose to read/listen to/watch. I bet if you paused to consider your actions and then wrote down what you did every day for a week, you’d be very surprised at the end of those seven days by what you saw. You might not be pleased. I know I wasn’t when I did it. I was shocked at how much I wasted. So I made changes.

Here’s another one: don’t buy what you don’t need. Seriously. I know it’s nice to have the latest gadget/pair of jeans/car, but really? Do you need it? Why? Stop and ask yourself that every time you go to the till to ring away more of your hard-earned money.

Another? Turn off the lights, the TV, whatever, when you aren’t using them. Simple as that. You leave a room? Turn off the lights. Turn off the television. Wasted electricity comes from somewhere, so even if you think, “Well, I’m paying for it, so what does it matter if I waste it?” the reality is that every time we waste something in one place, it negatively affects someplace else. It is the butterfly effect.

Did you know that anything plugged into a socket is wasting energy, even if it isn’t on? If you can afford it, install switches on your sockets that allow you to turn them on and off. Unplug stuff you aren’t using and turn the switches to ‘off’ when they aren’t being used.

Turn off the tap/faucet/’whatever you call it where you live’ when you are brushing your teeth or washing dishes. Don’t leave the water running. Take shorter showers, and ones that aren’t stiflingly hot. (That one is a challenge for me – I am a glutton for long, hot showers.)

And please, if you are going to plant gardens, plant sustainable ones – plant flowers that SHOULD grow in your region because they are adapted to the climate of your region, not ones that don’t belong there. There are two reasons for this. One is that a plant that is adapted to survive in the Cotswalds will need a lot of water, so if you put it in the middle of the Sahara, you are going to need to water it ALL THE TIME. Second, there are many species of invasive plants. We struggle with Port Jackson here, which was brought in a few centuries ago and wreaks havoc on the local flora. Bamboo does the same. So please, don’t go to the desert and suddenly plant an English garden. It’s beautiful, but it’s selfish and wasteful. End of story. If you choose to do what you want, don’t complain when things happen, like Colorado River drying up. Because it is. Quickly.

These are small things you can do that make a HUGE difference. Each person has a choice to help. As my friend Braam Malherbe says, you can either choose to be an asset or a liability to the world. Choose to be an asset. Please. And if you don’t want to listen to me, listen to the little monkey below. He is asking you as well. Oh, below the photo I’ve included some links to articles that offer more suggestions.

Monkey hug

baby clings to mom in the face of potential danger

50 ways to help

Tips from the New England Aquarium and National Geographic (these are both geared more towards water-based conservation, but I’d rather people do SOMETHING than nothing)

David Suzuki Foundation – What you can do

Mongabay (this particular link is geared towards kids, though the site overall is geared towards all ages)

 

All rights reserved. ©2015 Jennifer Vitanzo

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