Sir David Attenborough gave a stark warning about species extinction on the BBC’s one-hour film, Extinction: The Facts.
For those of us who sat and watched it soon became clear that this wasn’t a celebration of the natural world but an insight into what we, the human race, are doing to destroy it; the one-hour programme served as a rallying cry for us to face up to the harsh reality of our actions. There simply isn’t any justification for what we, as a species, have inflicted on Mother Earth. The sad truth is that our materialistic lifestyles come at a devastating cost to other species sharing the planet with us. For most of us a donation to a worthy cause often masks the bigger issues and stops us questioning why so many charities, organisations and campaigners exist. Have we really got to the point in our own development that thinking about the bigger issues is so far removed from our daily lives? We seem more than willing to allow other species to disappear without any remorse for the fact that this tragic extinction is simply down to the gratification of our own supposed needs.
The alarming footage included Koala Bears desperately trying to escape forest fires, chemicals and microplastics killing marine life and whole forests being cleared to satiate the global demand for beef. Forests are cleared to plant soy to meet the huge demand for animal feed to satisfy the demand for the consumption of animal flesh. The stark fact is that since as recently as 1970 vertebrate animals (birds, mammals, reptiles, fish and amphibians) have declined by 60%. The simple message is that wildlife doesn’t infringe on us and continues to live happily if left without any interference from us. The programme didn’t hide the destruction and the loss of habitat but, on a human level, it was difficult to witness a man in his nineties, who has spent his life trying to educate and share his knowledge with us, looking so devasted that we, the viewers, haven’t been able to understand what is happening to the planet and more so that we seem unwilling to stop.
Millions of species are currently at risk around the world; wet markets and the misguided belief that remedies concocted from the body parts of animals driven to the brink of extinction can heal and cure illness highlight the human disregard to the species that share this earth with us. The origins of the current pandemic, and many before this one, can be traced back to the inhumane practices mentioned above. Our demand for food has increased over recent years as the world’s population races to record levels but the demand is not simply due to less developed countries. We, in the developed world, need to start questioning where the food that we consume originates from. How can the earth possibly cope as mass consumption creates a climate emergency and pushes more and more species to the brink? We need to act NOW!
The current unprecedented times offer the perfect time for us to accept that we need to change. Businesses need to invest in more realistic and environmentally friendly practices and we, as individuals, need to look at the effects of our choices and actions. We need to stop throwing away products that cannot be recycled or reused without question. We need to reduce the demand for land to be used to feed us and turn to a more sustainable way of balancing the food we choose to eat by adopting a healthier, plant-based diet. If we begin to eat locally produced products that are in season, we can support farmers and reduce our carbon footprint. The biggest challenge is to change our whole way of thinking. If every one of us did something now to make a stand against what is happening globally, larger corporations, businesses and elected governments would have to change too.
Why do we have experts if we as a world refuse to listen to their advice and knowledge? Why do we feel that belonging to a charity to help prevent extinction or sign a petition is going to resolve the issues? We are experiencing difficult and challenging times as we deal with COVID-19 but perhaps this is now our chance to put things right. Investment has to move forward in looking at how we as a species can continue to inhabit this planet. This is our chance to invest in a more sustainable future.
Sir David Attenborough highlighted the loss of pollinating insects and the threat to food crops that we depend on as well as the deforestation that removes trees affecting the oxygen that we breathe. He also raised the issues around overfishing in our seas and the effects of the resulting imbalance on all species due to changes to the food chain. The evidence is clearly there for all of us to see and the message is clear, there is hope but we all have to live together so it is down to every one of us to now take a huge step and change our unsustainable ways.