The memoir I’m writing touches upon my travels in Africa in the 1960s. In it, I admit never having seen a lion in the wild. I did hear one, once, under unpleasant circumstances. But that story is yet to be written. I can only remark that in the veld, a lion’s roar carries a distance of 5 miles. (Click) Hearing it, all animal life tends to freeze and stand wary. I certainly did.
Unfortunately, human encroachment on wildlife habitat is taking its toll and the prospect of seeing a lion in the wild is becoming less likely. 7.4 billion people live on this planet and the number is growing, leaving little room for biodiversity. In a recent study, “scientists examined 27,600 of birds, amphibians, mammals and reptiles, and found about 32 percent are dying off as their habitats shrink.” (“A third of species face extinction,” The Week, August 4, 2017, pg. 23) The study also showed mammals, including lions, have lost 80 percent of their range.
Natural events have wiped out species before. Ice Ages, earthquakes, and asteroids have all played their part. But human activity is largely responsible for this latest wave of extinction. Climate change is a factor most of us have come to accept. Can we accept our obligation to preserve wildlife habitat?
Western culture has always looked upon nature as a resource to exploit. That must change. To preserve biodiversity, we must make choices against our self-interest. Will we choose lions, tigers and bears over our right to build a house, create a business, or have a child? I’m not sure we have the will to overcome our selfish impulses. Certainly, our response to climate change is underwhelming.
We are caretakers of the earth. Are we worthy?