The pointless slaughter of Cecil the lion saddens but doesn’t surprise me. Humanity is fast becoming the scourge of this planet.
I’m aware African farmers have issues with predation – and that the fees charged to allow ‘mighty hunters’ on to their lands are a much-needed boost to their incomes.
But the natural world is irreplaceable. When it’s gone – it’s gone. The end. So I stand by my point.
I suppose I shouldn’t be surprised to see this happening. The notion that standing over a dead animal showed how ‘superior’ the hunter was had mainstream traction well into the twentieth century – an age when humanity was still struggling ‘against’ nature; when technology was only just beginning the widespread change that – now – is threatening our survival.
Back then, to be able to burn down swathes of irreplaceable indigenous forest – as happened in New Zealand from the mid-1870s, and as is happening right now across Indonesia, in the Amazon basin, and in Malaysia – was viewed not as eco-vandalism but as a demonstration of the way humanity could ‘conquer’ nature and ‘convert’ the world to ‘useful’ purpose.
To go out and shoot helpless wildlife was viewed as another demonstration of human ‘superiority’ over nature. And sure, some of these animals were extremely fearsome to an unarmed human. But to one with a gun? Hardly.
Lions don’t have hunting bows. Or guns. They are absolutely defenceless against such weapons. To me that gives due moral dimension to the pictures we inevitably see of the ‘mighty hunter’ standing over their prey, gun or bow in hand.
This, incidentally, is why the Jurassic Park movie plots are so contrived. Blast a few deer-slugs into a T-Rex and it’ll turn into a T-Rug soon enough.
As far as I am concerned, all this has to stop – and more. ‘Mighty hunting’ is only one symptom of a much deeper problem with humanity – the fact that we unerringly manage to destroy every environment we go into. All, I suspect, downstream of a survival technique that worked quite well when there were only a few thousand of us and all we had were stone tools and sticks. Now, in our modern world of bulldozers and cars and aircraft and industry and atomic power and fossil fuels and seven billion of us? Not so much. As Sir David Attenborough pointed out, humanity is a plague on the Earth.
Right now, we’ve harnessed the bulk of the world’s life to our ends – as this rather scary chart by Randall Munroe (XKCD) shows.
As far as I’m concerned, it’s our moral duty to protect what’s left. And not just for the sake of the environment. It’s also essential for us to survive, because we need it too. Technology isn’t a magic bullet: and we don’t have to destroy the last tree, eat the last fish and pollute the last aquifer to reach the point where we join the animals we’re killing on the extinction list.
Just damaging the environment to the point where it won’t support us is enough. The problem is that this is exactly what’s going to happen if we keep going down the current path. I think it’s going to take some fundamental changes of mind-set to get off that path – a deliberate re-think of our basic nature, as a species. I think we are capable of it, if we allow ourselves. We pride ourselves on our superiority: well, let’s prove it, starting with ourselves.
I am not the only one to say this – and all I can see otherwise is a collapse. Not this generation or even this century, sure. Maybe not for a millenium or so. But it must happen if we continue down the current path – and the problem is, by the time it becomes obvious, it will likely be too late.
Copyright © Matthew Wright 2015