They struggled against all odds but one.
May 11, 2016 12:43 AM   Subscribe

"When he was alive, Lonesome George was a captive reminder of biodiversity loss. One 2006 book called him 'the only one of his kind left on earth—a symbol of the devastation man has wrought to the natural world in the Galápagos and beyond.' After his death, Washington Tapia, a researcher with the Ecuador National Park Service, told the New York Times it was like losing his grandparents. But even for people less intimate with him did his life and demise serve as a reminder of the mass extinction of species currently underway—the sixth in earth’s history but the only one caused by humans." - Human Error: Survivor guilt in the Anthropocene
posted by brundlefly (5 comments total) 16 users marked this as a favorite
I don't know how collective the guilt is. Here in Australia we are having a very real debate over the reef, and how much of it we should carve a channel through for cargo ships to access the coal mines on the mainland. At a time when all the evidence indicates that the entire reef will be dead in fifty years.

Those fucking mining companies right? Anything for profit! Let me relate to you something I heard on the radio. They were talking about David Attenborough's recent documentary which showed the extent of the damage and the reef's bleak future. An erudite caller phoned the show to assure us all that the reef was fine, it's just alarmism, everyone should stop saying the reef is dying.

'But then why are the scientists so concerned?' replied the DJ. 'David's a highly regarded naturalist backed by experts on the reef. Do you know something they don't?'

'I've been a tour boat operator for thirty years and I'm on the reef everyday, and I can tell you it's not dying, so stop saying that. If people stop coming because they think it's dead, I'll be out of a job'.

There are armed guards protecting the last northern white rhino, not from big corporations, but from people like that guy who feel no guilt at all.
posted by adept256 at 1:48 AM on May 11, 2016 [10 favorites]

A handful of thoughts:
  • I "met" Lonesome George when I visited the Galapagos a number of years ago. I still consider it to have been a true privilege. RIP, George.
  • I feel tremendous "species guilt" on a near-weekly (if not daily) basis. I am ashamed and appalled at what humans have done and continue to do to the other creatures on our planet. It is an absolute disgrace. It has led me to fits of crying and to fits of impotent rage.
  • Once when travelling, my partner and I met a couple with whom we engaged in fairly deep conversations over a series of evenings. In one conversation I relayed my displeasure with the human species for the shameful way we treat the earth and its other inhabitants. These people looked at me as if I was crazy. They absolutely held the view that humans are no worse than other animals and, further, appeared to believe that human "dominion" over animals should be taken as a given. Implicit in this view of human"dominion" over animals was the necessity for brutality/violence, rather than any sense of our being their stewards/shepherds/guardians.
  • This framework for understanding our relationship to other animals on this earth is absolutely beyond my ken. I would rather try to make friends with a polar bear than have humans with these beliefs as "friends". I can abide many individual differences in beliefs and practices among humans, but not one that doesn't recognise humans as being agents of destruction (in addition to agents of possibilities). This seems like wilful blindness, not to mention a HUGE incapacity for empathy beyond one's own nose.
  • I don't fret much for the end of humanity, so long as we don't take down everyone and everything else with us.
  • This is yet another reason I have not procreated: the earth certainly doesn't need more humans, and I'm not arrogant enough to think a mini-me would be an exceptional case. I mean, I don't eat animals, I don't shoot them, I try to recycle everything I can, etc., but my footprint on the earth is not non-negligible. Since I am already here, however, I figure the best I can do is to live by the words "do as little harm as possible" AND "do as much good as possible". If at the end of my life I have managed to do so, hopefully my personal level of "species guilt" will have been somewhat mitigated.
  • To all the other inhabitants of our planet: I am SO sorry for what we have done (and continue to do). :'(
posted by Halo in reverse at 1:57 AM on May 11, 2016 [7 favorites]

Lucky you, seeing George! While I understand the symbolism of the pictures in the article, I scrolled right past them to get to George's picture. Maybe it's clever irony that George isn't there.
posted by adept256 at 2:05 AM on May 11, 2016

My bad! He's at the top, greyed out and covered with text and social media logos.
posted by adept256 at 2:09 AM on May 11, 2016

I used to love watching nature documentaries, and these days I have trouble doing so because I know that many of the things I'm watching are going to go extinct. The ones that involve polar or coral reef habitat are the worst.
posted by tavella at 11:32 AM on May 18, 2016

« Older His nipples are always erect for no fucking reason   |   Redefining Wealth and Prosperity in the 21st... Newer »

This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments