Last night I read a disheartening article about how the diversity of species around the world is plummeting despite the fact that over the past forty years there has been rapid and substantial growth in the amount of land and sea designated as protected habitat for species preservation. Some of the reasons cited include pollution, the arrival of invasive species and climate change. The article states: “The steady loss of biodiversity—defined roughly as the rich variety of living things—can, in turn, have profound implications for human civilization, which relies on healthy, variegated ecosystems to provide a host of ecological services from water filtration and oxygen generation to food, medicine, clothing and fuel.” The article did not offer a lot of hope for improvement.
Ironically, in recent days I have been reading a wonderful book Rob gave me called Reason For Hope: A Spiritual Journey. This book is by the renowned chimpanzee researcher Jane Goodall. Dr. Goodall has devoted over fifty years to wildlife research and preservation. She is one who recognizes the importance of all species and how critical it is that we do what we can to preserve biodiversity. Towards the end of the book Goodall says the question she is asked most often as she travels around the world is, “Jane, do you think there is hope?”
Jane Goodall is as familiar with the ecological problems facing the world as anyone. She writes and lectures constantly about increased population growth, diminishing resources, and the destruction of nature, resulting in poverty and human suffering. Still, she believes there is hope for both this planet and its inhabitants. She says “I do have hope for the future—for our future. But only if changes are made in the way we live—and made quickly. We do not, I think, have much time. And these changes must be made by us, you and me. If we go on leaving it to others, shipwreck is inevitable.” She goes on to write, “If we put our problem-solving abilities in high gear and join hands and brains and hearts around the world, surely we can find ways to live that are more in harmony with nature, and start to heal some of the wounds we have inflicted.”
One of the reasons Goodall gives for her hope is her confidence in human intelligence. She believes that humans have been given a remarkable intelligence with which problems can be addressed and solved. Theologian Rosemary Radford Ruether notes this too but adds, “The privilege of intelligence, then, is not a privilege to alienate and dominate the world without concern for the welfare of all other forms of life. On the contrary, it is the responsibility to become the caretaker and cultivator of the welfare of the whole ecological community upon which our own existence depends.” Jane Goodall would no doubt agree with Ruether.
I am encouraged by Goodall’s hope. I am also challenged by her call for individual action. As a Christian I am called to affirm life in its various forms and to care for the earth God created. This concern has to be translated into action. At one point in her book Goodall quotes these words of Albert Schweitzer: “A man who possesses a veneration of life will not simply say his prayers. He will throw himself into the battle to preserve life, if for no other reason than that he is himself an extension of life around him.” As children of the Creator we have many reasons to preserve biodiversity on this planet. The question is, will we actually do it?
(All four of the species shown above [grizzly bear, bald eagle, sea otters, and giant sea turtle] have been listed as “threatened” or “endangered” at one time or another. I was blessed to photograph these magnificent creatures. Will those who follow me be able to do the same?)