And the bush has friends to meet him, and their kindly voices greet him, In the murmur of the breezes and the river on its bars,
And he sees the vision splendid of the sunlit plains extended, And at night the wonderous glory of the everlasting stars.

Banjo Paterson (1889)

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Hypocrisy and The Titanic Principle

I have just received my latest copy of the Birds Australia magazine Wingspan and with that I did my usual reading of the comments section. We also receive the UK Birdwatch mag, which I also like reading. The Wingspan comments had a rather upset angry fellow commenting that in a previous article, a photo at a nest had upset the nestling and basically he was having a shot at the magazine and the researcher who took the photo. This type of thing is very common in any bird magazine with a comments section, especially from what I’ve seen, in the UK. This illustrates perfectly what I have started to personally call the ‘Titanic Principle’.

The Titanic Principle can be pictured like this, a person screaming about someone forgetting to turn off a tap that’s getting the floor wet, when the whole side of the ship has been ripped out by an iceberg! Understandable, but also a bit stupid and pointless. I have seen this ‘principle’ in operation so many times in the media, at work and generally throughout the whole of society.

I work as a consultant zoologist, often contracted to mining and real estate companies. It’s a great job that I love, which allows me to work with wonderful animals, but also has a dark side too. We sometimes get help with the pre-clearance fauna surveys from young enthusiastic mining staff or maybe university students or on rare occasions the general public. It is then that I usually see the ‘principle’ kick in, especially when due to Western Australia’s hot climate we start getting a few deaths in traps. I hate seeing animals that have died, but no matter what you do, besides cancelling the survey, you will sometimes have some deaths! Our ‘helpers’ on seeing dead animals usually start becoming upset (understandable), offering pointless suggestions or not wanting to help anymore. They forget one thing, and this is the dark side of my work, that these are pre-clearance surveys and that this place and most of it’s wonderful animals will be destroyed!

There are many things to consider from all this. If an animal dies in a trap rather quickly from heat, is that so bad? Is it better for them to die slowly in rock crevices under thousands of tons of soil? A reptile due to it’s slow metabolism could last a long time. A very slow death from starvation.

We must not forget the birds as well. They will have to leave and we often think they will just find another home, but where do they go? If I was to destroy the suburb or town next to you and some of the families came over to your house and said ‘we will now live with you here’, what would you say? In the natural world, habitats and niches are usually taken and already here their residents, who will have the advantage and fight to keep their homes. The sad fact is that majority of displaced birds will always die! This applies to most mammals and reptiles as well.

Before we get on our high horses about all this death and destruction, please bear in mind that home you live right now in was once a natural ecosystem with whole community of wonderful animals. For you to have your computer, furniture, electricity, clothes and everything else that makes your world, ecosystems and animals had to be destroyed!

What I’m trying to say in this post is that we need to be aware of the big picture! We often look at the small things, but ignore the big. You only have to look at some of these blogs or the TV or newspaper to see some of the huge disgusting environmental atrocities being committed. We get upset and start writing letters about an upset nestling, but say nothing about massive areas of the world’s rainforest being wiped out due to greed and corruption. In one case a nestling may be upset for a few minutes, in the other case tens of thousands of nestlings, birds and animals are wiped out, often forever. The ‘Titanic Principle’ in full glory!

It’s all a similar story about our jumping up and down over global warming, when the real problem has always been and is overpopulation. One will change the world, one will destroy it, but that’s for another post.

I’m not saying the little stuff doesn’t count, but let’s do some of the big things and always try to look at the big picture.


Jennie of the Jungle said...

Hear hear! LOVE this piece! Thank you.
-Jennie of the Jungle

Phil said...

A well constructed piece Richard. You are right of course about how difficult to get the bigger picture across. This applies to ringing birds and the aah! effect on Joe Public.
Phil - AnotherBirdBlog