You may have noticed that our species is the most neato bunch of creatures of all time. In case you doubt this is true, consider scientists’ recent discovery that in the past forty years, good ol’ homo ignoramus–er, sapiens–has wiped out fifty-two percent of all invertebrates on earth. Asteroids destroyed the dinosaurs. This time, we’re the asteroid.
The funny thing about this story is that it’s already passed by like a blip on the radar screen. We’re all too busy driving in our sleep to notice that we’ve got the rapacious tenacity of Captain Ahab when it comes to our PacMan-like relationship to the food chain.
“Oh, so in the course of making ourselves more comfortable and making the world safe for the mass-consumption of processed food and plastic shoes, we’ve managed to extinguish over half of all the backboned critters on earth in just forty years. No biggie–carry on.”
It’s astonishing, our capacity to continue on our happily destructive course despite the interdependence and interconnectedness of all living creatures. Granted, most of us aren’t deliberately going out of our way to slaughter the rest of our fellow mortal animals, but the way a lot of us live is so obnoxiously disconnected from nature and indifferent to our impact upon it–whether individual or collective–that we might as well be.
The problem is that if you start yelling and screaming in public about how stupid and suicidal it is for us to be vigorously sawing away at the branch we’re all sitting on as the tree it belongs to teeters over the edge of a cliff high above a valley of miscellaneous scattered bones, people will think you’re nuts. In some places, you might even get locked up, shot, or at least teased by a bully who robs you of your lunch money.
So what do you do? Carry on blindly going about your business day by day with the rest of the lemmings, wondering how much more time we’ve got before the hurricane of shit hits the mushroom cloud-sized fan.
What makes life even more absurd these days is that those of us who are shielded–at least for the time being–from the horrible consequences of our blithely oblivious actions–have the luxury of being able to follow it all in real time on our hand-held gadgets or while parked on our butts in front of our computers at home. The great thing about being a mouse potato or a sofa spud is you can kick back, relax, and enjoy the downfall of nature along with civilization, or an amazing facsimile thereof provided by your creative friends in the Pentagon-approved branch of Hollywood.
Last night I went out and ate way too much dead cow with a few friends, one of whom defended our decision to eat meat, saying that’s what we have incisors for. But, he pointed out, whereas most animals are slaughtered in a humane fashion (not that I’m sure that that’s always true), he’s opposed to eating dog meat not in principle–he said he tried it before and it was good, as God and Hemingway would say–but because the people who prepare this particular delicacy do it by beating the dog to death. The reason for this barbaric approach to canine-based cuisine is that the agony the dogs suffer apparently raises their adrenaline levels and makes the meat taste better.
Ah, but of course.
And tiger-penis tea can give you a hard-on. (Correction: Drink tiger-penis tea and you are a hard-on.)
I got weepy when I watched the video on the New York Times website a few weeks ago about the Congolese park ranger who works to protect endangered mountain gorillas (there are only 800 left in the wild). These majestic yet gentle creatures, orphaned by poachers and the crossfire of the ongoing civil war, soon will have no place left to go. The narrator of the film said something like 150 park rangers have been killed in the course of trying to protect the gorillas. The hero of the story talks about how his father taught him to love animals, and says how his dad would be happy to know of his son’s work if he were alive today. (He, too, was killed in the crossfire of the wonderful war.)
A more recent story from the same website describes how vultures are able to eat decaying corpses and fecal matter without getting sick (hey, I’ve never been to a Taylor Swift concert, but I’ve heard that’s carrion worth consuming), which suggests that their immune systems must be out of this world.
Of course, poachers are helping matters by making sure to poison the vultures, since the scavengers’ presence alerts park rangers to the poachers’ shenanigans and interferes with these fine men’s altruistic attempts to eradicate all the rhinos and elephants before it’s too late.
Thanks, fellas! You’re awful swell. (Then again, I’m sure a lot of them resort to poaching out of desperation. I confess that I myself have poached an egg before. God, if you’re up there, please forgive me. If not, I forgive you for not existing.)
Anyway, I’ve probably already depressed you enough. I hope I didn’t interfere with your digestion. I’ve still got a bit of a stomachache from last night, unless it’s just my guilty conscience trying to change my course of action.