Earth has been the custodian of all living matter for the past 4 to 4.5 billion years and it has done a splendid job at housing us. However, we’ve been taking what it has given us for granted; we’ve slowly, but surely been ruining its pure form.
Whilst this is an issue that isn’t native to just one day, it’s brought to many people’s attentions on a particular day in which we celebrate the endless bounty of riches it has provided us with; Earth Day.
Every year since 1970, Earth Day has been celebrated on April 22. Another major event that took place on April 22 this year was the March for Science in which rallies and marches took place in Washington D.C. in order to celebrate science and its roles in our lives. Furthermore, it was organized by scientists, who are opposed to the Trump administration’s rather hostile views regarding science and specifically, regarding one of the biggest issues today; climate change, otherwise known as global warming.
This concept of global warming was first seen as a premonition as far back as the 1980s and what did the people do? Ignored it, that’s what.
Now, we’re suffering for it and whose fault is it? We can’t conclusively say it’s 100% our fault, but we are definitely responsible for a decent amount of it. I mean, who invented cars that emit smoke that worsen pollution? Who invented electricity? Who invented fireworks and bombs, alongside other ammunition used in warfare and occasionally outside of warfare for horrific reasons? We [humans] did. I’m not trying to bash anyone here or elicit some form of guilt whatsoever. These inventions have been revolutionary and have helped us greatly.
However, whilst we homo sapiens are enduring harsher temperatures amongst other changes that accompany global warming, we’re not the only ones affected and arguably, we’re not the most affected.
I’d argue that animals are affected far more than we are.
Why is that and why should this matter to us? What do animals do for Earth? For us?
I stumbled upon an artwork by Laura Ball called “Growing Pains,” which was featured in a Google Arts & Culture article regarding the “Resilience in the Age of Climate Change.” It depicts a tangle of extinct and endangered animals and below the image, the article posed the question of “How many creatures depicted in Ball’s painting will be lost due to climate change?”
The animals shown above are just a fraction of all endangered and extinct animals. According to the IUCN Red List, or ICUN Red List of Threatened Species, which is “the world’s most comprehensive inventory of the global conservation of biological species,” they’ve catalogued 85,604 species – 24,307 of which are either vulnerable, endangered, or critically endangered.
Animals add onto Earth’s unique and native feat of biodiversity. That concept alone may not matter to some people, but it does matter to many. It’s part of our Earth and that in itself is something that I’d personally find heartbreaking to lose.
Animals do far more than many of us care to know and they’re not often appreciated or given credit for what they do. … Why?
“Because they’re animals.”
…. So what? How does that mean anything?
Let’s take a look at what it is that they do and how they’re affected by climate change. In some cases, this can lead to extinction or at the least, endangerment or vulnerability. This can be seen in polar bears, snow leopards, giant pandas, tigers, cheetahs, coral, and African elephants amongst others.
First of all, consider the following:
What would happen to polar bears, a nearly endangered species, if all ice on Earth ceased to exist? What would happen to an array of other species that rely on polar bears for food if polar bears went extinct? One way or another, everything is linked. Granted, some things are linked far more than others, but that’s besides the point.
Thus, we segue into one of many species that has been hit the hardest as a result of climate change; polar bears.
How are they being affected? Polar bears do their hunting on Arctic sea ice. During the summers, more and more of that ice is melting and turning to liquid water. Alternatively, polar bears have had to turn to land in order to find food, but it’s not necessarily that great, as it’s not their natural or preferred food choice. Whilst they are said to be capable of getting on land and eating terrestrial foods, other sources dispute this as being a viable alternative. They spend most of their lives on sea ice. That’s the way it has been since the beginning of their evolution. If that ceases to exist, what will happen? Will polar bears cease to exist or will they miraculously find a way to adapt to life on land for the entirety of their lives? Presumably, that sort of transition wouldn’t be the easiest and why should it even have to occur when it is in our power to at least slow down climate change?
There’s also the lesser known snow leopard. By lesser known, I mean that it’s not amongst the most popular animals to research. Whilst their endangered state may not be linked to climate change per se, it’s certainly affecting its prey and a rise in poaching and habitat encroachment. These issues alone are common amongst animals like rhinos today and extend far beyond Africa.
Whilst there are many other species worth mentioning, let’s investigate how animals help us and the planet in which we all reside.
First of all, I think it’s s given that without plants and animals, we wouldn’t be alive. We wouldn’t have oxygen, clean water, soil, food, etc.
Animals – specifically pets – also help reduce our stress levels and make us feel better, alongside giving us company. Animals can also provide a sense of security (ex. dogs). Some animals, such as therapy horses, can help autistic children and others with their confidence.
Animals, such as bats and birds, pollinate trees and forests. Some animals help in the making of medicine, such as vipers, whose venom is used to make blood pressure medication.
Dogs are notably one of the most loved animals worldwide and they are one of the smartest species. They make great guards or protectors, alongside being humankind’s best friend for the longest time. Some dogs aid conservation groups in sniffing out endangered animals and plants in order to help researchers find and save these animals and plants.
These are some of many reasons as to why we should work towards bettering our environments and helping slow down climate change to make the Earth a better place for all of its custodians, which include animals, plants, humans, and more.
I’m not going to tell people to ride bicycles instead of cars to commute from place to place, as that seems easy in theory, but it’s easier said than done. It can be done, but it would take a while realistically.
The first step to accomplishing anything of this sort is knowing how and why it’s affecting the world and its inhabitants. In my opinion, nothing is impossible from that point on. If someone sets their mind to something, anything is possible as cliché as that may sound.
By Maya Abou El Nasr
- National Geographic
- IUCN Red List
- Pachamama Alliance
- World Wildlife Fund