There is a war ravaging our world. I speak not of the conflicts between men or countries. I speak of another, vastly different kind of war. It is not a war for political reasons or for territorial expansion. Its basis is far simpler than that, yet its potential ramifications far outstrip anything our civilization has ever before seen. I speak of the ongoing battle between mankind and the other creatures of this world. The conflict rages virtually unchecked, across all the continents and beneath our oceans. It is the ultimate conflict of our era, for the stakes are nothing less than the survival of the species. And it is a battle that far too many of our fellow denizens of this world have already lost. It is the conflict between nature itself, and mankind as we continue our relentless expansion, coupled with our overwhelming lack of compassion for any other form of life.
A prime example of one such battle is that which currently rages in The Serengeti National Park. Currently, the Tanzanian government, despite earlier reports to the contrary, intends to pave the road which runs across 50 km of the park. The annual migrations in this region involve more than 1.5 million animals, primarily wildebeests and zebras. These annual migrations are considered one of the great natural wonders of the world. The paving of this road would have dire consequences, both to the migrating herds and the local environment itself. The effects could be devastating to the natural balance throughout the area. The road would bring increased traffic, almost certainly resulting in massive loss of life to the herds. But as tragic as this would be, it is not the sole repercussion that would ensue.
Nature is a blend, with all its parts working together in harmony. The lion and cheetah populations…which also happen to be among the most popular tourist attractions in the park…depend heavily upon the annual migrations for their food supply. You cannot disrupt ancient patterns of behavior without incurring ill effects. Additionally, the migrations serve yet another purpose. The regular movement of such a vast number of creatures, concentrated into such a relatively small area provides two useful services for the local environment. First; the massive numbers of creatures involved heavily fertilize the soil with their urine and dung as they travel. Plus, the trampling action of millions of hooves prohibits the proliferation of bush, which otherwise might well overrun the grasslands. All these natural processes and patterns are threatened by this new road, which is all part of man’s so-called “progress”.
Another such front in this war is in Botswana. A recently completed aerial survey of the area indicated that numerous species in the area were seriously threatened by both drought and human encroachment. This human encroachment takes many forms. They include: habitat fragmentation, land use, veterinary fences, vegetation changes, poaching and others. Among the species listed as “seriously challenged ” are; giraffes, kudu, wildebeests, warthogs, ostriches, and several species of antelope. The wildebeest population in this area was the most seriously threatened. The official estimate of the survey listed the wildebeest population reduction over the past 15 years at over 90%!
The list of such conflicts is extensive. One needs only turn on the news or read a local paper to find stories of such conflicts between man and nature. It is impossible to affect one link in the chain which comprises a given environment without incurring disastrous ramifications. Human beings are the ultimate embodiment of this destructive potential on the planet. Our encroachment upon…and in far too many instances outright destruction of… various delicate habitats is well documented and comes in a variety of forms. These include: population growth impinging upon an animals natural habitat, destruction of the environment itself through pollution of the air, soil and water, disruption of migratory patterns, over fishing and hunting, deforestation and poaching. Mankind as a whole is the single greatest contributor to ecological imbalance on the planet. Conversely, to be honest, we are also the species that holds the ability to have the greatest positive effect upon this worlds ecosystems. We have it within us to either save or destroy. The ability and the choice is ours. We as a species need to acquire an environmental conscience an awareness before our own shortsightedness and apathy doom us and our fellow denizens of this world to extinction.
Todd Sain Sr.