BiodiversityComedy Break

Us and Them – a Better Approach

George Monbiot should stop complaining about our unwillingness to do anything about biodiversity loss and get with the program instead.

Just another attempt to
toy with our emotions…

The world is getting smaller. Our human population is exploding, and our appetites are growing even faster than our birthrates. Although you may not realise it, this is leading us on to one great final offensive.

Up until now some of us have been willing to acquiesce to the other creatures that inhabit OUR earth — but no more. We cannot let our sensibilities overcome our sense here. There is no longer enough room or resources for both us and them. This is a time to unite, like the true world dominators that we are, for the sake of humanity. Now is the time to take a stand; for one last great and noble human victory — a determined, merciless conquest of species eradication.

It’s not like we weren’t aware it would come to this. Subconsciously, we’ve known it all along. It’s just that now we must really come out of the closet and be true to the direction we’ve chosen.

Sharks, for example. At least some people have found an ingenious, efficient way to get rid of these. Forget killing them and carrying their bulky carcasses back to land (think of the fuel costs). Quite a few enterprising individuals have the revenue model on this well sussed — they just find an exclusive high-priced market for a small, light and easy-to-retrieve part of the creature in question, and dump the rest. Extermination thus becomes both easy and cheap to implement and well financed. What could be simpler? You just need to think outside the box.

Some species are wising up to us though, and with these we need to be extra vigilant. When we’ve undermined their habitat, they’re relocating.

What a cheek. Where do these animals get off with moving, instead of just laying down to die?

For many creatures, however, there’s really very little effort needed, we just need to keep doing what we already do so well. Take the Baiji Dolphin — we’ve recently been able to check that one off our list, and we didn’t have to do anything but ignore it!

But it’s not just large creatures we need to get rid of. There’s a world of insects that keep bugging us as well. Pollinators, like butterflies, for example. There is good news on this front too — we’re making serious headway in getting rid of these. And, for you as a consumer, there’s nothing more you need to do here except keep supporting the status-quo food system, as the guys in charge have this area well covered:

Urgent action is needed to halt butterfly declines across Europe, a meeting of top butterfly experts from 31 countries has concluded.

Several countries reported the extinction of 10 or more butterfly species within their national boundaries at the meeting at Laufen, Germany.

It was confirmed that the Maderian Large White has suffered global extinction, the first European butterfly to become extinct since the 17th century when records began.

The “dire” picture was not confined to countries with intensive agriculture, such as Luxembourg, Belgium and the Netherlands – though they were worst based on the number of species which have declined seriously or become extinct.

Germany was not far behind followed by Slovakia and then Latvia, confirming that the problem extends from the Balkans. The meeting heard disaster stories from Bulgaria where internationally important butterfly sites are being destroyed along the “Silver Coast” to make way for tourist resorts, ski development, and golf courses.

Changes in farming practices, as backward agricultural methods catch up with western Europe, are also causing concern. – Telegraph

Because butterflies are good indicators of biodiversity, the results indicate a serious crisis for Europe’s wildlife. Around one-third of all European butterfly species are unique to Europe and the report shows that 15 of these are now globally threatened. —

Regular readers will know we’re doing exceptionally well on the bee front as well. Actually, wiping out bees should be a top priority. Getting rid of these nasty little stinging creatures will save us a great deal of expense eradicating other animals, as bees are regarded as a ‘keystone’ species. It’s a bit like knocking out the supply lines to Hitler’s armies. Once you’ve destroyed their food and energy sources, you don’t need to risk personal confrontations on a direct assault, or waste time and expense — as you effectively starve them out of existence:

Please don’t let the clip above cause you any concern about our own food demands. I have it on good authority that scientists will figure something out here. (I can’t give you details yet though, as they’re still applying for the patent.)

More encouraging news is in regard to bats in the U.S. I’m not sure who managed to start this little issue, but he/she ought to be fully congratulated.

"I’ve worked with bats over 45 years and never have I seen, or even known about, any kind of mortality rate comparable to what we’ve seen," he says. "The analysis that we’ve done here indicates that bats — in at least the north-eastern US — are going to die out within 20 years." —

I know some of you will complain that by removing the bat we’ll have more creatures to contend with, as bats can gulp down thousands of insects in a single evening. But, do you really want to assuage the ego of these creatures by admitting they can do a better job than we? I didn’t think so. Besides, bats are pollinators too — so targeting these should be a priority.

As well as eliminating food supplies, the more astute individuals amongst you will have already considered another efficient way to remove hundreds of species with a single stone, as it were: that’s right, water!

If per capita consumption of water resources continues to rise at its current rate, humankind could be using over 90 per cent of all available freshwater within 25 years, leaving just 10 per cent for the rest of the world’s species. – UNESCO

A study done in 2007 says we may be even further advanced on this front than we thought too! The trick is to ensure we kill off all other species, but pull back from the edge of our own demise. Again, we have scientists on the case, so I wouldn’t stress about this either.

Passenger Pigeon
(no match for humans)

Despite all these advances, I know some people can still get a little overwhelmed by the scale of the task ahead. There are still literally millions of creatures out there, and it can sometimes appear that we’ll never be able to destroy them all. When I’m tempted to get discouraged, I find it helpful to look back to the pioneers of this movement. One of many inspiring examples I could share is the story of the American Passenger Pigeon. In the early 1800s in North America, there were literally billions of these birds. In fact, they were the most common bird in the country:

…The passenger pigeon was a very social bird. It lived in colonies stretching over hundreds of square miles, practicing communal breeding with up to a hundred nests in a single tree. Pigeon migration, in flocks numbering billions, was a spectacle without parallel:

Early explorers and settlers frequently mentioned passenger pigeons in their writings. Samuel de Champlain in 1605 reported "countless numbers," Gabriel Sagard-Theodat wrote of "infinite multitudes," and Cotton Mather described a flight as being about a mile in width and taking several hours to pass overhead. Yet by the early 1900s no wild passenger pigeons could be found. — Wikipedia

Historians wrote about the sun being blocked out as enormous flocks of these birds took to the skies, and there are records of people managing to kill over forty birds with a single shotgun blast (NPR Podcast). Although you’d think you’d never be able to eradicate them all, these brave souls did just that — and in record time too. In less than 100 years, and with a fraction of the current U.S. population and with just the low-tech equipment available at the time, humans totally gained the upper hand. The American Passenger Pigeon is no more.

This is only one of many examples that could be shared. In the last century hundreds of species have gone from abundance to the edge of existence, or, indeed, further. With our increased numbers, our chemicals and our high-tech equipment, there is absolutely no reason why the same can’t be true for all other species as well. It’s only a matter of time. We’ll get there yet.

The pioneering spirit I’ve shared above has not gone from us, no, not at all:

…if current rates of human destruction of the biosphere continue, one-half of all species of life on earth will be extinct in 100 years. More significantly the rate of species extinctions at present is estimated at 100 to 1000 times “background” or average extinction rates in the evolutionary time scale of planet Earth; moreover, this current rate of extinction is thus 10 to 100 times greater than any of the prior mass extinction events in the history of the Earth. — Wikipedia

Just imagine — if we put just a tad more effort in, we could complete this project within our lifetimes!

South Island (NZ) Rock Wren

I must confess to a little hypocrisy here. There was a point in my life when I was a bit too soft at heart. Take the little guy at right. He’s an endangered member of the wren family — living only high in the mountains of New Zealand’s South Island. You’ll find this bird on the IUCN Red List of endangered species. Almost nobody ever gets to see one — even among those that hike in the mountains all their lives — but a few years ago I had six of the little guys hopping about at my feet. But what did I do? Instead of taking them out, I just took pictures…. On another occasion, in Alaska, I was asked to go out and kill black bears. No need to bring back the heavy carcass they said — I just needed to grab the gall bladder and I’d have been more than adequately compensated for the service. In a moment of weakness, I refused.

Of course, some people get all worked up about ‘the need for bio-diversity‘ — believing that the creatures within the biosphere work together in a symbiotic relationship…. (Yawn.) Gaia, schmaia. Beware of these kind of ideologies. Really, what they’re trying to say is that we, yes, we, actually need other species. I don’t know about you, but this needy thinking seriously grates on my ego. These people wholly underestimate how far the human race has come. We can meet our own needs — indeed, even plants are superfluous in the future I envision. Sure, we’ll have a few gaps in supplies to fill at first, but technology has come a long way. Even in those areas that might initially be a little problematic, as the need becomes greater market forces will take over. That’s the beauty of today’s economic system. When the demand arises, we’ll divert investment accordingly — until all problems find their inevitable market-based solution. It’s a beautiful thing.

Silence is golden.
A world worth striving for.

Indeed, we’re seeing this now with climate change. Politicians and scientists have all the solutions. It’s just a matter of putting our trust in the right people, and waiting.

Let’s visualise the world we really want. Thousands of life forms have been taking what doesn’t belong to them for too long. Let’s keep moving forward, and reach out for a world that’s ours, and ours alone. It doesn’t have to be just a dream. Really, it’s almost within reach.

Mr. Monbiot: with outstretched hands we ask you to join us — the winning team!


  1. Cmon George you have got to be sick and tired of staying up late researching “facts”,as a journalist.
    I think Craig has made some excellent points.Come and join the team and we can consume our way into a new world order with our team at it’s glorious apex, alone undefeated!!!!
    You should be let free to report on the real stuff like Royal weddings,the latest I pod and Paris Hilton(p.s could we have more Paris),you never cover the X factor either!
    This is a worthy campaign Craig you have my chainsaw!

  2. I must be missing something here Craig. The sarcastic digs at George seem to be wide of the mark. I think George got it really right: we can’t rely on international (non) agreements to get us out of our bind. The reliance on big anything is unlikely to work. George says: “if governments had met in Japan to try to save the banks, or the airline companies, or the plastic injection moulding industry, they would have sent more senior representatives, their task would have seemed more urgent, and every dot and comma of their agreement would have been checked by hungry journalists.” Let’s face it: almost all corporations and all governments are destroying “nature” (or the land base on which we depend) with increasing and ruthless efficiency. Relying on this unholy duopoly of to “save us” through policy/agreements/regulatory change, as most environmental groups still do (see not enough. Local sustainable (permaculture) solutins offer us at least a chance – and they can build biodiversity and abundance also!

  3. Craig, you’ve written some classics but this one is the best yet.
    It would be fantastic for our community here, to cap off the Year of Biodiversity……so,can I please adapt and shorten it for our regional newspaper the Newcastle Herald,(part of the Faifax Group who own the Sydney Morning Herald, Australia’s biggest selling paper…so your article could even end up there, with your OK if they ask of course)
    First, though I would send you my draft for any
    corrections or improvements, of course. You keep copyright.
    Newcastle Herald probably would not pay anything.
    They have published longish articles by me (unpaid), like one on food security through urban P-culture, another on how we need to learn Indigenous- type respect for the sacred values intrinsic to Mother nature.

  4. Hi Peter. I wasn’t digging at George at all. Indeed, my post was intended to make people think more about where we’re heading, and to be honest about it, and to consider George’s article a little more thoughtfully.

    Tom – yes, so long as I get to approve the final draft, and it’s properly credited with my name and the PRI, you’re welcome to publish in print.

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