I had what you might call a rude awakening on a recent trip to San Diego where I enjoyed my first trip ever to the San Diego Zoo.
During the visit, we took the bus tour that gives you highlights of all of the species the zoo boasts, and provides what turns out to be a great deal of information on endangered species and conservation. I was shocked out of my complacency when the guide spoke about one critically endangered species that they had brought back from the brink of extinction. She said that they now had 14 breeding pairs that they would love to return to their natural habitat…if that natural habitat still existed.
These animals (some kind of grazing mammal that resembled a cross between an antelope, a goat, and a cow – I was so surprised by her statement that I’ve totally spaced on the name) are living in a tiny re-creation of their original ecosystem, and to keep the herd viable, are traded back and forth between other zoos, wild animal parks and refuges. There is no available habitat that they can be returned to because of the encroachment of man.
I’d always thought that the biggest danger that man posed to this planet was through pollution, waste of natural resources, and the byproducts of technology. Not so. Even if we managed the absolute miracle of “living green”, we’d still be the ultimate destruction of our world.
How? Through sheer numbers and our shamefully wasteful use of space. Elsewhere in nature (unless it’s an area in which we’ve destroyed the balance), overpopulation is resolved by predators, disease, or starvation.
The number of animals never gets to be more than the amount their environment can support…and when it approaches overload, nature compensates. Short of a massive plague, nature can no longer compensate for mankind’s overpopulation. We can feed the starving masses (when we want to), we’ve eliminated the bulk of our predators, and we’ve eliminated or controlled other mitigating factors, including disease and aging. More people are being born and many of them are living decades longer than they did less than a thousand years ago.
Since 1950 alone, the world population has jumped from over 2,535,093,000 to 6,740,025,000…and is climbing by the second, literally. By 2050, a mere one hundred years from the two and a half billion mark, experts are projecting the population will reach 9,191,287,000…assuming the Giant Nuclear Fireball has not yet called us home in a wave of firey Glory.
So, what do we do about this conundrum? I invite your comments and suggestions, both serious and tongue-in-cheek, (we are, after all, the Party of the Giant Nuclear Fireball), on how we can save the planet from ourselves. After all, we want the GNF to come on our terms, not because we can’t stop breeding like rabbits and our greed knows no bounds.
Responses to “Conservation – Us versus Them?”