I suspect that this has been happening for a while, but I only became aware of it now: my kids’ science classes are using animals as a way to bring children into the environmental, global warming movement. This is more than lonely polar bears standing on shrinking icebergs, an iconic warmist image that ignores entirely the fact that the world polar bear population is, in fact, quite robust. My son’s most recent “science” project, which was ostensibly to understand how to graph data, focused entirely on endangered species. At the same time, a neighbor child was taking a poll about some vanishing whale population, which ended with the child (very sweetly and earnestly, I might add) lecturing us about the exactly numbers of whales existing in 1580, versus their virtual nonexistence now. She was taken aback when I asked her (nicely, I assure you) how we know the exact number of whales in 1580. (More on that point later.)
My sudden awareness that it’s not just polar bear pictures but whole curricula that are being aimed at children targeted a free form cascade of thoughts in my brain. I’ll share those thoughts with you here. Pardon my obvious incoherence. I’ll probably develop this theme over a series of posts, and hone my thoughts a bit better. Also, I would very much appreciate your corrections and comments.
First, it seems to me that modern environmentalists are using the endangered species list, not to protect animals, but to stop humans. What I discovered when I helped my son do the computer research on the various animals that he had to study was that some of the animals he was looking at were, in fact, doing very well. There is no doubt that, back in the 1970s, when people first started getting worried about animal populations, many of these animals were on the verge of extinction. Since then, animals such as the wolf, the polar bear, the eagle, and the mountain goat, to name but a few, have had population increases, some so much that they’ve been removed from the endangered species list. (Other animals, interestingly, aren’t doing well despite massive and economically costly efforts.)
The environmentalists ought to be celebrating these victories, because they are indeed victories. Instead, despite the fact that, numerically speaking, the animals are doing well, the environmentalists are adamant that they are still endangered. When local communities affected by the onerous burdens of the Endangered Species Act try to challenge an animal’s listing, the environmentalists go haywire.
One could say that the environmentalists are just making a distinction between the fact that a species is no longer trembling on the verge of extinction and a species that is actually robust. The former is still worthy of consideration; the latter . . . not so much. I think, though, that there’s more going on than over-caution. The Endangered Species Act stops humans in their tracks. Depending on an animal’s habitat, humans cannot build homes, factories or farms. They cannot hunt or fish. In other words, for environmentalists, it sometimes seems that their hysteria has more to do with stopping humans than it does with protecting animals.
Second, the data on which the kids rely is suspect. A good example is a post dedicated to debunking Bjorn Lomborg, the man who claims that polar bears are doing okay. In his book, Cool IT : The Skeptical Environmentalist’s Guide to Global Warming), Lomborg says that “[m]oreover, it is reported that the global polar-bear population has increased dramatically over the past decades, from about 5000 members in the 1960s to 25,000 today, through stricter hunting regulation.” After rightly taking Lomborg to task for the phrase “it is reported,” debunker admits that Lomborg’s numbers come from a New York Times article, which itself airily refers to unnamed sources. Here’s what the debunker has to say (emphasis in original):
Well here is a named expert, Dr. Andrew Derocher again:
Think about that: “Nothing but guesses.” My little neighbor girl is lecturing me about the whale population in the 1580s, versus today’s population, but even for polar bears in the 1950s and 1960s, we have nothing but guesses. How can we know the population was vanishing by the 1970s, if we have no idea what it was before the 70s? All that really seems to matter is that the world population is about 25,000 today, which seems like a robust number.
The other problem with the debunkers is that they’re invested in a polar bear narrative that is predicated on climate change. While Lomborg was talking real numbers — 25,000 today, regardless of the 1960s — the debunkers are hypothesizing worst-case scenarios based upon global warming. Since warming seems to have stopped, the hypothesis is wrong. (I can’t find my link for that right now. I’ll add it later.) Additionally, as many have pointed out after the failed “Rapture,” the Left is much given to apocalyptic scenarios, none of which (yet) have occurred.
Third, when we were kids, the environmental education was focused on human populations deliberating killing animals. We were made to understand that, for every fur coat, a cute little baby seal got clubbed. That was actually a very real cause-and-effect. Stop wearing fur coats and they stop clubbing those cute little guys. (In the same way, the 19th century saw some bird populations brought almost to extinction, until women were encouraged to change their hat styles.) Now, children are presented with the more amorphous “climate change,” which is an imprecise “science” at best, predicated on an inaccurate theory. Direct cause and effect is impossible.
What remains unchanged, but is getting lost in the global warming noise is our obligation not to have industrial strength abuse of animals for frivolous reasons. The current debate in California is about a ban on shark fins, which are a Chinese delicacy. I’m no vegetarian, and have no problem whatsoever with eating any part of the shark one wants. (Although having once had shark fin soup, I hope never to have it again. Ever.) The problem — and the proposed law’s target — is the way in which shark fins are collected:
The law takes aim at a practice known as finning, in which a shark’s fins and tails are cut off before the animal is thrown back into the ocean to die. Supporters say that businesses in California have skirted a U.S. law banning the practice by buying fins collected in international waters and noted the catastrophic collapse in the worldwide shark population in recent years.
That strikes me as an indescribably cruel practice and one that humane people ought not to countenance. To me, that’s a very reasonable environmental stand to take, one based on measurable cause and effect: Finning is animal torture.
Fourth, the line between animals and humans gets ever smaller, as is demonstrated by PETA’s latest initiative to use in its advertising the criminal case of a woman who put her baby in the microwave. This is part of the whole “Holocaust on a plate” campaign that makes animals have the same values as humans. I love my dog. I admire animals. I respect their place in the grand scheme of things. I think we have an obligation not to waste them or torture them or willfully or carelessly destroy them. But they are not humans. They exist at a different level, and it is a terrible mistake to try to anthropomorphize them or dehumanize us.
Fifth, not only are animals being used to advance climate change ideology, they’re apparently also being used to advance gender issues. If cute little other species can have inchoate gender identities, why can’t we? Well, primarily because we’re not cute little other species. We’re humans. And while there are definitely humans who are born with mixed up hormones or body parts, that’s not normative. Such people should never be bullied, and they should be accorded the respect due all humans, but they shouldn’t be the template for sex education in American schools.