The path near my house thrusts out into the winding river and drops precariously down from pebbled path to stony river beach. It is along this path where I often walk and my gaze is always drawn to the same thing. I look over the ribbon-river to the flocks of cormorants who stand like sentries with their expansive wings and thick, hooked beaks. Because of their spectral stillness and silence, they are often missed. Yet every time that I see the flocks of ebony shadows sunning themselves across the river, I can't help but see them as a symbol of hope. Where cormorants reside, fish reside, and where fish reside, the ecosystem is usually stable, or at least it is managing.
The 19th century was a very different story. The Thames was less a river, but more a miasma of fermenting fecal matter and toxic waste which 'rolled up in clouds so dense that they were visible'. It is said that the stench was so bad that the curtains in parliament were soaked in chloride of lime to try to alleviate the smell. I have digressed, quite largely, but I think this is a prime example that when needs be, humans can change behaviour quite drastically. The Thames is only a trickle of water compared to the immensity of what we face, but it is a potent symbol of our capacity for change. And change we must.
We face a crisis so severe and so momentous that sometimes our brains are unable to comprehend the scale of it.
- There is a rubbish patch in the Pacific Ocean which is over 1.6 million square kilometres.
- Over 1 million species face imminent extinction
- we kill 60 billion animals a year (just for consumption, but there are many more)
- Oceans could be empty of fish within the next 20 years
You understand. Of course you understand. This is the biggest threat to our survival (and the survival of our planet) that has ever existed... and it was caused by us. But that 'us' is where the power lies. It is the fact that we have collectively caused this crisis that will help us to extricate ourselves from our very terrifying, very precarious predicament. Before I go on, please watch this.
It's more for your amusement than anything else, but it does teach us a pertinent lesson about the human nature.We are a social species and, like bees in a hive, humanity is alike to one superorganism. 'Increasingly, individual people are less and less able to function independently in modern society – we rely on the superorganism to feed, clothe and power our many tools, to inform and heal us, even to help us reproduce through surrogacy or IVF.'
It's this collective, indomitable human spirit which we should have faith in. Recently it seems as though the ball has begun rolling. Like in the video, the first man has begun to dance and people are rapidly joining in. Whilst we cannot lose sight of the fact that this is a crisis and we all have a individual responsbility to act, we have to foster the idea that we are capable of change and that we are capable of creating a green, clean and hospitable society and living alongside wildlife, rather than isoalting it in pockets of dessicated wilderness.
There has been a recent exponential rise in 'eco anxiety'. I don't know whether I have it or not, but I understand the hopelessness and the uncertainty that these people feel. Report after report warns of extinction and catastrophe and collapse, yet we very rarely hear of success and perservance and victory in the environmental sphere. Both must be reported on more. When you fight day after day for something you feel so invested in and so passionate about, you want to know that change is happening and that you are not fighting a losing battle. It is human nature to want an end point. We like precision and specificty. Uncertainty unsettles us. Whilst I cannot give you that, I can let you know that change is possible and is already happening across the globe. We're all fighting for the future, but we shouldn't overlook the present. We still have a bounty of beauty and biodiversity to protect. We've lost many species and many more are on the precipice of oblivion, but now let's set our sights on today and tomorrow and beyond. It will be a challenge, but it is possible.