Wildlife is my love and my inspiration. I am lucky enough to have been born into a world where tigers roam pristine forests and the lions roar can still be heard across Africa. Our world is still beautiful and rich in life. Rainforests still cover large areas and there is still wilderness to explore. I make my living from painting the beautiful biodiversity that this wonderful planet has given us and naturally I care deeply about what is happening to it. I want my children and my children's children to also know a world as rich as the one I know.
The reality however, is that my generation will probably be the last generation to know such a world. My generation shamefully, will be the generation that spoils our planet for all future generations, the generation that gives most of the worlds iconic creatures the same status as dinosaurs. We are fast creating a world where children will learn about lions and tigers in books - as something that once lived but is no more.
How could we possibly be so reckless? It seems that collectively, we have not evolved from our most primitive beginnings. We are still a creature in competition with everything around us and with a population now 7 billion and rising, our ability to destroy knows no bounds. Everything is at our mercy and we are showing precious little of that.
This is an amazing time to live, right at the boundary where humans decide the fate of everything else. Never before have we reached such a position. History will remember this generation always, because it is we who are alive today who decide what type of world all future generations will inherit. If we continue on our current path, we can never turn back. Extinction is indeed, forever and it is imperative that we change course.
There are those of us who care but we are few in number compared to the vast hordes of those who don't. This is the reality of wildlife decline. Is there anything that can be done?
I have always supported, and continue to support the efforts of charities that do their best to stem the tide of destruction but the time has surely come to re-evaluate what they are capable of. Simply put, they can not stop the inevitable extinction of many of our planets iconic species. The best they have done is to slow down the killing and to buy us a little thinking time. To believe that they can stop the killing however, is a dangerous miscalculation.
Let us look for a moment at my beloved big cats. Mans war upon them has waged since we first came into contact with each other. At first the contest was a fair one, but now we have the global reach and the firepower to exterminate them all and we are doing exactly that.
- In the last 50 years lion numbers have fallen from 450,000 to just 20,000
- Tiger populations have reduced from hundreds of thousands of animals to perhaps fewer than 2,500.
- For some species such as the beautiful Amur Leopard, the end is almost here. Only around 30 remain.
So why is this happening? Human population, it's greed for new habitat, poaching, and of course the dreaded Chinese medicine are all causes that urgently need to be addressed, but I think there is another more important overall cause that we are unaware of and it is to do with us.
We have all heard the saying 'All that is required for evil men to succeed is for good men to do nothing' Never was it more apt than with regard to the endangered species on our precious blue planet.
Apathy is the real killer here. The war rages around us on a daily basis and yet we are mostly unaware of it. Rhino poaching in South Africa for example, is set to break new records this year as the demand for it's horn increases fueled by the ( False ) belief that it has medicinal qualities. The Poaching of wildlife has become very much a war, with heavily armed poaching gangs slaughtering wildlife across Africa and India. China, the emerging superpower and worlds most populous nation is behind most of it and the political will simply does not exist within or outside of China to stop it. This is why Charitable organizations can only hope to slow the process of destruction. It can never hope to stop it. The appetite China has for devouring the worlds wildlife is far too powerful for mere charities to combat. This is the harsh reality we face today and yet, we hear very little about it. Why?
Charities themselves will not tell you, as this would impact on their badly needed funding, and the media considers this subject a very low priority when there is so much human suffering and conflict in the world to report upon. Without media interest politicians the world over see the issue as unimportant and only something for charities to deal with. It is a deadly combination for wildlife.
When was the last time you heard a U.S. President, British Prime Minister or any head of state talk about saving the tiger? Lets face it it is so far down the list of human priority that it simply doesn't happen. Even 'A' list celebrities don't concern themselves with it. We live in a world where it would be strange to hear our politicians discussing endangered species and strange for us to turn on the news to find tiger poaching a top story, and yet this is precisely what is needed if the tiger is to have any chance of survival whatsoever. This lack of interest and lack of understanding of how important this is, is the reason we have so many species facing extinction within our lifetime. it is a direct reflection of what we are as a species and why we are where we are today.
Humans have always put human beings first. It comes from our evolutionary past when it once made sense, but now is the time when we urgently need to evolve into a species that sees itself as part of an ecosystem, with each part playing a vital role for the health of the whole system.
Now is the time when we all have to change our perspective and understand that this subject is one of the most important issues facing humanity. We have to stop our obsession with short term interest. The banking crisis will pass, even the trouble in the middle east will come to an end, celebrities will die, Governments will change and politicians will continue to make mistakes, but when we drive a species to extinction we change the world forever, and this I tell you, is more important than almost anything else.
We live in the information age, dominated by media organizations. They decide which subjects are important and which are not, and they largely influence as well as reflect, public opinion. To make change every one of us has to see and express how important this issue is to us, so that the media behemoth can finally get behind it, exerting it's pressure onto politicians to make things happen.
I urge charities large and small, to concede that the issue is bigger and more important than they are, and to make use of the media to declare their losing battle and to insist that this subject now enters mainstream political thinking.
Future generations of humans will see the reality of this very clearly indeed. Either from the perspective of living in a barren world devoid of it's natural wealth, or from a world that is still a paradise. It is for us to decide how we want to be judged.