Few people are noticing but we are entering the first mass extinction of species to be caused by humans and the sixth mass extinction overall. The Noble prize winner Paul Crutzen has called this mass extinction the Anthropocene.
Some experts estimate that a quarter of all mammals and a fifth of all reptiles are about to vanish. Only a few days ago we were told that the magnificent and iconic African elephant is starting a slippery slope to extinction in the wild because it is being farmed for its ivory which as we know is illegal but which is prized by businesses in Asia and elsewhere. Think of a world without the African elephant. Think of a world without the tiger. It is possible and it is becoming increasingly likely.
The extinction of the species runs more rapidly than the attempts of conservationists to prevent it. We are even losing some species before we have discovered them. We are messing up the world even at a time when we don’t fully understand it.
Humans exploit nature on an industrial scale but most of us don’t even think about it. We are too far removed from nature to feel what is going on. People need to have it in their faces before they realise the truth of things. People need to feel the impact directly upon themselves before they actually change their habits.
There may be other elements which are causing this reckless human behaviour in abusing and using up the planet with a complete disregard for the future and future generations. Perhaps we are lost. We don’t know how to stop it and therefore had given up. Perhaps we are too wrapped up in stopping wars or creating them.
Perhaps we want the extinction of the species to take place because they get in our way. We are so self-obsessed and human-centric that animals get in the way. They certainly get in the way of business. Big business hates nature and wildlife unless they can use it to turn a profit. One of the biggest businesses is the logging of virgin forest which provides a home to so many species that are sliding towards extinction.
Do people ask themselves where the wood for their furniture comes from? Do people ask themselves where the ingredients for their shampoo or shaving gel comes from? Are people concerned about the mass removal of forests to make way for palm oil plantations which is one of the ingredients of many products. The World Wildlife Fund For Nature say that Europe is swamped with wood and paper products made from illegal logging that causes half of the deforestation in central Africa, Southeast Asia and the Amazon. We are cutting down beautiful trees to make photocopying paper and we don’t even think about it.
What has this to do with cats? Well I have mentioned the tiger, which is highly endangered. The lion is less endangered but it is also joining the ranks of the other iconic animals such as the elephant and the rhinoceros which are in danger of starting that slippery slope towards extinction in the wild.
There is little possibility of the domestic cat becoming extinct because the domestic cat is attached to us and the human population is exploding but our attitude towards the domestic cat is a reflection on our attitude towards the sixth mass extinction.
We tend to drool over cute kittens and individual cats which entertain us on websites such as YouTube. Yet, we conveniently ignore or put to the back of our minds the mass euthanasia of unwanted cats in the West, particularly in the United States. We are entertained by and anthropomorphize one animal and ignore the big issue.
Another example of this phenomenon is the lonely baboon who is stuck on an island in the Zambezi River in Zimbabwe. During a dry period he walked across the river to an island to explore it. The rains came and the river swelled and became infested with crocodiles so that he could not get back. He was cut off from his family. He has lived for 3 years on the island which has no trees, eking out a pitiful living on birds’ eggs and grass.
There has been a big debate as to whether we should you get involved and bring him back from the island to his family but as yet nobody has done it and I wish they would. But the point is this: many people have seen the video and are concerned about this single animal in the wild but they ignore the big picture; the fact that forests are being chopped down in which primates live, but, sadly, not for long. We want to save a single animal while at the same time we don’t want to get involved in the much harder task of saving the planet. Is this a reflection of our myopic relationship with nature?