November 26, 2014

Human population and wildlife habitat

Human Population and Species PreservationContinued growing global human population and overconsumption are the core issues behind environmental degradation. I joke that here in Berkeley, we drive Priuses, but park them behind our BMWs. Though climate change and even terrorism can be traced back to escalating human numbers, one of the most heartbreaking consequences of population growth is encroachment on animal habitats.

Elephant slaughter for ivory, shark finning, and rhino horn removal have all received a lot of press lately. Some of this killing is fueled by testosterone. “Come up and see my tusk” has long been a path to the bedroom. The purported aphrodisiac and strengthening qualities of some animal parts has fostered black-market trade for centuries. Old habits are hard to break.

To mark World Population Day on July 11, the Bay Chapter’s Committee on Population and the Environment, along with HowMany.org, sponsored a talk called “Where Have All the Elephants Gone?” by Chris Austria, formerly a Marine World animal trainer, and currently an animal conservationist in Ethiopia. Attendees learned about these remarkable creatures, and how they differ from their Asian counterparts. We learned that last year alone, over 8% of the migrating Ethiopian elephants were dispatched for their tusks.

To me, as a medical doctor, the analogy between the takeover of the planet by our species with the takeover of the body by cancer is very disquieting. This was first mentioned by Professor Al Bartlett. The lights of cities from space, over time, resemble sequential cancer scans that show a spreading disease.

All is not doom and gloom. We have seen astounding positive change in human attitudes and behavior over the last decade. Stay informed, and join population activists in the Sierra Club and HowMany.org. Whether for investments or wildlife, maintaining diversity is always a good idea.

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To join population activists in the Sierra Club, contact population@sfbaysc.org.

Adam Duhan, chair, Population Committee, Sierra Club San Francisco Bay Chapter

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