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Contemplating Extinction


Spotted on my morning walk, a fine fat fellow looking very relaxed in a tree right next to our driveway.  I don’t think it is a tree we planted but the one right next to it is.

Our daughter was given some tickets to Currumbin Wildlife Park on the Gold Coast a couple of weeks ago, so we took six month old grandson Teo for a day out.  And it was a very pleasant day.  But it was more interesting, and eye opening,  for me to see people reacting.  Sometimes I need to be reminded how privileged I am.

It is easy to imagine if you live in a city that wildlife is happily safely securely flourishing “somewhere else”.  You hear about extinctions but maybe you don’t get just how profound it is. Good solid science, not greenie hyperbole,  says we are now entering this planet’s sixth mass extinction, the biggest loss of diversity since the loss of the dinosaurs 65 million years ago. In earlier mass extinctions, something up towards 90% of the world’s species went extinct.  Huge numbers.

Eventually of course life finds a way – or at least it always has up till now.  Evolution starts with the species left and diversifies, because in diversity there is resilience.  But in the meantime life is pretty skinny.  And the “meantime” is longer than my poor little human brain likes to contemplate. I can only really care, personally as opposed to philosophically, as far as maybe my great great grandkids. But I’d really really like them to see a koala happily munching gum leaves.  I’d really really like them to have the magnificent experience of sitting at the headland at Point Lookout watching whales breaching as they migrate north to give birth.  I’d like them to catch guppies in a creek and marvel at water skaters and spider webs. I’d love them to know there are tigers and lions and gorillas even if we never see one. It wrenches my heart to imagine a world where “once upon a time, there used to be big pure white bears that could catch fish to eat in the frozen icelands of the north pole”.

Greenies get bad press for creating a fuss and blocking “development” about saving “some frog somewhere”, as if this is a ludicrous and extreme concern.  But we are looking square down the barrel at losing 90% of the world’s species.  Each one of them food for or a predator for another one, the loss of one setting off chains of reactions that spread like one of those massive domino art pieces.  And somewhere in that array of dominoes is the human species feeling all chuffed and superior and forgetting that loaves and fishes are plants and animals and part of that 90%, just like us.

Protectors at Maules Creek in north western NSW have just managed a huge effort over the long weekend, camping out in the cold, walking long distances through the night to get around road blocks designed to stop them,  nearly 100  arrested, to hold off forest clearing contrary to its conditions of approval (ie illegal) by Whitehaven Coal till an injunction could be obtained from a court. Leard Forest has nationally-listed and critically endangered tree species, home to nearly 400 species of plants and animals including threatened and endangered species. That’s the choice – more coal, or one less domino down.

And then, last week at the Australian Local Government National General Assembly, Griffith Council moved that ALGA write to the State and Federal Government requesting it to intervene and determine that exploration and mining of CSG in agriculturally productive land not be permitted. Motion: Lost. Moyne Shire Council sought the support of the National General Assembly in opposing the exploration for and extraction of Coal seam, tight and shale Oil gases in Australia. Motion: Lost. Gunnedah Council has moved a motion asking the Federal Government to retain the primary responsibility for the approval of resource projects, coal seam gas in particular and provide regulation which best preserves and protects our natural resources. Motion: lost. Rural councils that see the extent of the devastation of both natural environments and farming lands are being outvoted by city councils that see only places like Currumbin.

And the saddest thing is, there is no need for this mass extinction.  It’s not a massive comet or a huge volcanic eruption blocking out the sun.  It’s just being a bit too slow to react to the very real threat. It’s being suckered by a handful of beads for the world.

{ 6 comments… add one }
  • Fiona June 18, 2014, 6:39 pm

    Such a great post Linda. Our local council has fought hard against CSG exploration but you are right it sometimes does not matter what they want for their community. I think often people are very unaware of the rate of extinction we are already experiencing.

  • Becky A June 18, 2014, 9:04 pm

    I am both saddened and heartened by your post. Saddened that the UK is not the only country pursuing such ecological stupidity and heartened that people everywhere are fighting this sort of destruction.

  • Kirs Hely June 19, 2014, 8:39 pm

    Hi Linda .Love your blog (& your home garden permaculture book… for many years was most used book in the house). Your post brought tears to my eyes,not because the topic was a message I have never heard or seen before, but because it is for me one of the saddest & tragic events of our time. To avoid despair I try to focus on what can I as an individual do to in some small way to limit bio diversity loss, knowing that I ‘cant afford ‘to be attached to the outcome’…cause the prognosis isn’t good. There are all sorts of ways we can contribute.For example at the moment you could donate to Rainforest rescue who are trying to purchase properties for sale in the Daintree, The Orangtan Project protecting forest in Indonesia…& lots more choices. On a local level become involved in restoring local bushland areas or your own property fortunate enough to have one. 10 yrs ago we regenerated a gully on our property. last year while standing out front at dawn I heard for the first time a lyre bird down there that too brought tears to my eyes cause it felt like hope. We can submit submissions & letters to politicians. We can assist in repairing damaged landscapes. We can be involved in preventing the destruction of ecosystems (eg Maules Creek Mine). There are many ways it is possible to contribute and with the doing we become empowered.

  • Kim June 20, 2014, 6:48 am

    The same thing happens in our area – local councils really are realising what it is happening and backing the families that must live in these polluted environments but it is to no avail with the power laying elsewhere. I sometimes wonder how much it has to change before it gets better.
    Having the farm stay has really opened my eyes to just how disconnected city folk can become from the world. The look on their faces when I explain, ‘this is where our water comes from, this is where our firewood comes from,this is where our food comes from … ‘ makes them see the bigger picture. They often say they don’t think of those things in the city because it ‘just happens’.Unfortunately one day it won’t just happen’ if things continue as they are.

  • Ruth June 21, 2014, 7:55 pm

    Despite the sobering nature of this post, I hope you enjoy Yule celebrations this weekend! We are being blessed with heavy rain, so no bonfires here – but the rain is the best gift we could get. 🙂

  • Jude Wright June 22, 2014, 8:30 am

    I think about human short sightedness a lot. Sometimes it seems to me that we are at the adolescent ‘I know it all, and will ignore all advice’ stage as a species and that this is the time to ‘get rid of the stupid ones’ (Darwinist).
    Most animals allow their adolescents to behave in a silly fashion and many of them are killed; the ones without forethought, the ones who think they can do more than they actually can, the ones who are arrogant , etc, it seems we elect ours and follow them to extinction.

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