The human species is the most intelligent animal on Earth, but isn’t it sad that it uses its intelligence mainly for perverse and malevolent purposes? We are overly and inexplicably arrogant about our ‘rights’, but have little or no regard to our responsibilities as custodians of the well-being of the planet for future generations, and indeed the ultimate survival of our species.
For example we claim as a right being able to take whatever we like from the planet to make our lives better, or easier or more comfortable with no regard to long term consequences and irrespective of how many of us there are. We have no care for the damage being done by rapidly increasing population, with equally rapidly increasing lifestyle aspirations. Why shouldn’t there be more of us all enjoying better and better ‘western’ lifestyles?
We claim as a right being able to kill animals, not with respect and reverence in order to feed our families as the few Kalahari bushmen that are left do, but for fun. To dismember them and exhibit them as trophies. Wealthy American dentists who pay more than most folk earn in a year to kill big cats and un-identified people who wander around Devon with crossbows illegally shooting rare ducks (http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-devon-33685319
) are no different to each other, no better than the poachers slaughtering African rhino and elephants to extinction who are doing it for money, to satisfy Chinese greed, ignorance and superstition. The case of Cecil the lion is surrounded by another endearing human trait – hypocrisy. The wringing of hands from the authorities in Zimbabwe has little to do with anger at the treatment of the animal, poorly shot with a crossbow and then hunted for 40 hours suffering from its wound before finally being put out of its misery. Their concern is firstly that nobody paid for a licence, and secondly the potential loss of tourist dollars, but there is no talk of making all hunting illegal – they would lose too much.
An even more insidious side to hunting, and yes there is one, is so-called ‘canned hunting’ widespread through South Africa and Zimbabwe. On canned hunting farms lions and other apex predators and big game are bred to be shot for money while penned in small enclosures from which they can’t escape. I have experience of a female lion used solely to provide cubs in one such farm. As soon as the cubs gained their eyesight after just a couple of weeks they were removed from the mother. This brought the female back into oestrous, and she was mated again. And so on. This is a totally un-natural process and the effect on the lion was to turn her into a dangerous psychopath who hated, demonstrated by extreme aggression, humans and other lions equally. She was rescued and lived out her days in the Drakenstein Lion Sanctuary near Paarl, dying this year aged 19. To the end she could not be penned with other lions and showed great aggression to keepers and visitors.
Undoubtedly like most Americans the dentist is a God fearing man, who will go to church on Sunday to pray for forgiveness for inconveniencing so many of his patients by closing his surgery and lying low while nicer people called for his execution in a variety of unpleasant ways. (Tying him to a tree in the bush and letting the cats get their revenge would be good, except that (a) revenge is another uniquely human emotion and (b) giving the cats a taste for people is not a very good idea for the cats). But then inventing religion is just one more example of humans using their intelligence in a perverse and malevolent way. Religion fights religion and even within different faiths faction fights faction. Can we really not understand the harm that’s caused by elevating ourselves to the status of chosen ones of non-existent deities created by our own imaginations? And we are created apparently in the image of the god, or is it the other way around? Is there no end to how self servingly arrogant we are? This in spite of scientific evidence that we have evolved over tens of millions of years and that Homo Sapiens is just the latest model, created by natural selection and definitely not in anybody’s image.
The kind of religion we urgently need is the religion of realism and common sense. To understand the damage we are causing, and the responsibility we have to stop the incessant drain on nature, to embrace preservation, not at any cost to include lost causes, but of the viable majority of species, habitats and resources available for a sustainable human population to enjoy. We are as far from that today as we are from the nearest humanly habitable planet to which we will need to escape, once we have drained Earth dry, even if such a place were to exist. Read about how we are a “super predator”: