“To be, or not to be, that is the question:
Whether ‘tis nobler in the mind to suffer
The slings and arrows of outrageous fortune,
Or to take arms against a sea of troubles
And by opposing end them.”
They have been touted by scholars to be the most famous six words in English literature: “To be or not to be…” Through this philosophical soliloquy by the dark Prince of Denmark, Shakespeare confronts us with the definitive question. Life or Death, which shall it be?
In Hamlet the life or death debate is confined to the penultimate (secondary) personal choice of suicide. But the ultimate (primary) question of whether to be or not to be transcends the matter of mere personal choice. Today the life or death question must be couched in the reality of the 6th Great Mass Extinction of flora and fauna on planet Earth and the primary role that humanity plays in this drama. What is ultimately at stake is halting the extinction crisis and saving life on Earth.
If that sounds like hyperbole, it’s because you/we haven’t been paying attention. According to Wikipedia, “A 2018 study published in PNAS found that since the dawn of human civilization, 83% of wild mammals, 80% of marine mammals, 50% of plants and 15% of fish have vanished. Currently, livestock make up 60% of the biomass of all mammals on earth, followed by humans (36%) and wild mammals (4%). As for birds, 70% are domesticated, such as poultry, whereas only 30% are wild.”
An article in Science Alert from November 2019 states:
- Even considering a conservative background rate of two extinctions per million species-years, the number of species that have gone extinct in the last century would have otherwise taken between 800 and 10,000 years to disappear if they were merely succumbing to the expected extinctions that happen at random…
- In fact, the Earth has lost about 60 percent of all vertebrate individuals since 1970…
- In fact, some studies show that the interacting conditions experienced today, such as accelerated climate change, changing atmospheric composition caused by human industry, and abnormal ecological stresses arising from human consumption of resources, define a perfect storm for extinctions.”
That’s not hyperbole. That’s not fake news. That’s the facts. All life on Earth is caught in a perfect storm far out categorizing the personal ‘sea of troubles’ to which the Bard was alluding.
The Center for Biological Diversity says that, “Our planet now faces a global extinction crisis never witnessed by humankind. Scientists predict that more than 1 million species are on track for extinction in the coming decades. But there’s still time to halt this crisis — and we need your help. By taking part in our Saving Life on Earth campaign, you can help build a coast-to-coast network to ensure the United States is a leader in saving the world’s biodiversity.” In their Saving Life on Earth: A Plan to Halt the Global Extinction Crisis document they state, “…we lose about one species every hour. This crisis is entirely of our own making… It’s in our own self-interest to fight to protect biodiversity.” (Please click on the above links to read the full report and learn more about the Saving Life on Earth campaign.)
One of our own Eco-Justice team members, Connie McAdams (see May 28, 2019 post), has recently been literally ‘focusing’ her attention on the matter of biodiversity loss and endangered species by participating in a couple of species identification challenges. For most folks the national Endangered Species Day last weekend went unnoticed. Not so for Connie. Cameras in hand, she set out on Saturday to complete the one day ‘What’s In My Backyard? species identification challenge!’ With 259 observations and 195 identified species, she came in #1 (by a long shot) among area participants. And earlier in the week she also participated in an international ‘BIOBLITZ – Counting Species Through Citizen Science’ project where she placed third for the Triangle region.
We’ll leave you with a series of her species photos from these outings as an incentive to remember these words from the ‘Saving Life on Earth’ report:“We must stop seeing the world as ours for the taking, but instead as a shared world that we must take care of.”
This day I call the heavens and the earth as witnesses against you that I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses. Now choose life, so that you and your children may live and that you may love the Lord your God, listen to his voice, and hold fast to him.
~ Deuteronomy 30:19-20