Pandas, Giraffes and Flooding (oh my?!)
You might wonder what possible link the three parts of my title have. Its pretty simple really: three examples of situations where people – perhaps specifically Westerners – just can’t get their heads around a simple facts of nature. Its time we confronted this head-on, or we’re all going the way of the dinosaurs.
The news has been full of flooding lately, but lets put that on one side just for now. Last week’s giraffe-killing story was a classic combination of factors leading to a story that could have been summed up as "Western Newspapers think world is insufficiently cute". I won’t pretend to understand all the details of the giraffe story, but neither, apparently do the journalists who made a story out of it.
Outside of the realm of zoology, what has happened is that human enjoyment has had to give way to nature’s rules. A photogenic creature has been killed to ensure the long term viability of breeding programs across Europe. We want to bend nature to our sensibilities, to fit our labels of ‘cuteness’ and ‘enjoyment’. Its almost like people think that, by giving a creature a name, it should somehow be immune to nature’s forces.
And to that, we bring the panda. I tend to think that pandas were created to teach us a lesson. That lesson being: just because a creature is dying out, doesn’t mean there’s a catastrophe going on. Pandas have outstayed their welcome in the wild – they’ve out-evolved themselves, they don’t have enough sex and they consume too much natural resource to be a viable part of the eco-system, and if humans hadn’t intervened, spending literally millions of pounds to prevent their extinction, they would have gone already. That’s not because humans have threatened their habitat; they would have gone anyway.
Of course, the problem with this is that pandas are kind of cute. We like to think of them as chilled out, cuddly and a great fundraising motif. Yes, the World Wide Fund for nature picked the one creature that didn’t need saving for its logo. Not the black rhino, for which humans are solely responsible for its demise. Not the thousands of other species in rainforests that are being stripped down for cow feed and biofuel plantations. But obviously, we humans know what’s best, the cute-market decides and nature can’t possibly over-rule us. Oh wait…
And then we come to flooding. What’s most interesting is the rate at which people seem to complain that they had trouble going about their life as usual, seemingly oblivious to the fact that a natural disaster is ensuing around them. ‘My right to go about my business’ is thought to take precedence over the forces of nature – something that patently isn’t possible. If nature decides we’re abandoning play, we have to abandon or people are going to get killed. Driving through several feet of water isn’t commitment to the cause of getting to or from work, its stupid and very likely to get people killed. Luck alone has kept most people safe.
Such is the arrogance with regards to the forces of nature that the BBC can drive a boat through a neighbourhood and find dozens of people refusing to leave their houses. The government even extends this to the point where, in an attempt to pretend this isn’t too bad, it refuses outside assistance for dealing with the danger at hand.
I suppose on one level, this is the kind of human logic that says we’ve conquered nature. We haven’t. Pretty soon nature will kick-back and teach us harsh lessons. Its not some kind of premeditated revenge, just a spring-back to balance the equations. So yeah, nature isn’t convenient, and it doesn’t go out of its way to function in the way we want it to, or think we need it to in order to maintain a steady course of life. Weather will be anti-social, it will cause alarm and distress, its plenty capable enough of being an all-out-nuisance, and no government will ever serve it an ASBO, abatement order or any other sentence. Anyone who thinks they can, more often than not, will either end up paying the price or someone else will.