Retire Mechanical engineer. Student at California State university Channel Island studiyingAbout Me

July 26, 2015

Our Animal Friends and the Environment

Just think about it:  If all the other species on earth gradually disappeared due to our precarious treatment of them, man would be a very lonely creature.

I would like to discuss two animals that, among others, affect the environment immensely.  They are beavers and wolves.

We must take extra care not to interfere with their habitats; otherwise, if we rupture their environment and take out even a few animals in the chain, it would ultimately come down to our own destruction.

In the eighteenth century, beavers were abundantly plentiful on the North American continent. As white man's numbers began increasing, beavers were hunted down for their fur. The beaver population almost came to extinction.

What we later learned, as seen in a Canadian documentary, was how important beavers are to the environment. Beavers were re-introduced to an area where there was a creek flowing through a dry desert-like countryside.

The surroundings consisted of bushes and small trees along the side of the creek that would be sufficient food for the beaver.

After a few years, the beavers had turned the dry, barren area into a lively marshland populated by a diversity of species.

Beavers are engineers, building intricate dams in which they reside.

In the process, beavers help other species flourish. The dams they build produce large volumes of water. This is accomplished through beavers gathering wood to build the dam and also digging into the earth and make it deeper, thus able to contain larger volumes of water; which is crucial to all life in the dry seasons.

In a study done by Jimmy Taylor, David Bergman and Dale Nolte, they drew the following conclusion: North American beavers are ingrained in Native American culture in North America along with the wolf, bison, and bald eagle.

They also are a significant part of the culture of European settlers in North America as their images are found  on coins, flags, and historical roadside markers.

The quest for beaver pelts almost extirpated the species from North America in the 19th century; however, the conservation efforts of the 20th century that led to their recovery provide one of the greatest success stories in modern wildlife management. (Taylor, Bergman, Nolte np.)

Their conclusion mirrors the Canadian documentary cited above.

Wolves, just as beavers, are very important to the ecosystem.

In a documentary shown on PBS, wolves were re-introduced into Yellowstone Park. In the past, wolves were indiscriminately killed by man, who believed they were a threat to livestock. Over the years, like the beaver, they were almost driven into extinction.

Wolves are social animals and they hunt together. In Yellowstone Park the grazing animals' population increased because wolves were being slaughtered. As the animals increased so did the erosion of the land. The countryside turned into barren land that could not support the grazing animals.

The wolves were brought back in, and within a few years the erosion stopped because the grazing animals, such as deer, moose and bison, were on the move. Grasslands improved, trees started to grow; even the rivers and creeks increased in size.

The wolf population helps keep the grazing animal population in balance.

So then, what are our duties as humans to other living creatures? To answer this question, we must go all the way back to how we evolved and why we were given the duty of looking out for the environment and other living creatures.

From the scientific standpoint, we are responsible because when man and ape separated on the evolutionary time-table, we became the 'superior creature.'

98.99 percent of our DNA is the same as the chimpanzee. It is that one percent that separates us intellectually, enabling humans to travel into space to look for other forms of life (among many other things), whereas a chimp can only 'think' about how to collect food and protect himself from danger.

That one percent makes such a vast difference in intelligence, imbuing us with the responsibility of protecting the ecosystem and care for all the creatures of the earth.

From the mystical point of view, human consciousness is the result of our gradual evolution.

Cosmic consciousness has followed by animating forms of life that are increasingly complex and more suitable for manifesting its attributes. Why do we have to be responsible for all the other species?

We are responsible because the 'superiority' granted to human beings by the Creator is imbued with both a spiritual and mental nature. Consequently, it gives us responsibilities and duties toward so-called inferior creatures. But the inferior creatures also play important part in the unity of nature.

In his letter to U.S. President Pierce in 1855, Chief Seattle and his native tribe understood the relationship between man and nature and treated it accordingly.

"We know that the white man does not understand our ways. One portion of the land is the same to him as the next, for he is a stranger who comes in the night and takes from the land whatever he needs" (Chief Seattle 648).

In my opinion, Chief Seattle was much more enlightened than the white man, yet we call him and his tribe savage people. Really, who is the savage here?

Even though we in America consider ourselves an advanced country, we turn a blind eye to the evidences of civilizations who have disappeared in the past. They too, thought they were advanced and believed they would survive because of their technologies.

This is the exact belief we have today; technology will solve all our problems.

Isn't that what our scientists said at the beginning of the Twentieth Century? That the industrial revolution and the new technology such as piston engines and tractors would increase cultivation of our land and solve our food problems?

The fact is, just like the older civilizations, our modern technology is what has brought harm to the environment.

We produce mass quantities of a single crop which takes away the insect habitat, creating large numbers of one kind of insect which take away other insects' habitats.

With our new technology, we disrupt the eco-system, pollute the atmosphere, the land, and the water. This destruction will eventually catch up with us.

We don’t acknowledge that we are finite beings and guests on this planet. It is time that we think about future generations and stop being careless about our environment and fellow humans.

There are many poor countries that are struggling to survive, but we say that is not our problem. We give them outdated technologies, such as farm equipment and used arms and we call it 'aid.' We must acknowledge the fact that all creatures, including the poor countries, will be our latent problem.

We need to reevaluate current environmental science and politics.

As stated by United Nations Secretary Michael Zammit Cutajar:  "Environmental science is disconnected from environmental values and politics."

He also said at the United Nations Framework Convention that, "The science has driven politics... if the science is to continue guiding the politics, it is essential to keep the politics out of the science" (Forsyht np).

In order to understand the kingdom of nature and its inhabitants, we must study their way of living, their food supply, and the environment in which they live. Only then can we make prudent political decisions on how to protect them.

Along this same line of thinking, in an essay written by Barry Lopez, he emphasizes the importance of teaching the interconnectedness of all living beings and their habitats to our children. In order to balance things, we must understand the relationship of living species and their habitats and not interfere with that.

Instead, as our population has increases, we build and build, abandoning old structures. We take away land that other species struggle to live on. We must be aware of the fact that our species and other species are part of the natural balance.

Yes, just like the older civilizations of Mesopotamia, Inca, Maya, Aztec and many others which destroyed themselves because they were careless in protecting the environment and hence, drove themselves into extinction.

The human kingdom is but one link in a chain linking all living creatures.

In that respect, 'superiority' granted to human beings by the Creator is strictly of a spiritual and mental nature. Consequently, it only gives us duties toward so-called inferior creatures. That is why we humans have no rights over them and should treat them with the deepest respect.

From a mystical standpoint, there exists no living species that is more important than any other in the eyes of Divinity. All species ranging from the insect up through human are the vehicles of a unique consciousness, namely that of the Cosmic.

By analogy, our feet are just as important as our hands, because they serve the same body and perform functions that contribute to the well-being of the whole. Likewise, there is not a single thing conceived by nature that is useless in the grand scheme of creation (from the teachings of Nodin manuscripts).

If all humans acknowledge the principle of this natural solidarity, we would have greater reverence for plants and animals, understanding that whenever we take the life of one of them, we destroy a vehicle slowly refined by nature in the service of evolution.

It is a fact that we have no choice but to use other living things to ensure our own survival, for the first duty of the humanity is to stay alive. Nevertheless, we must show our love for all kingdoms of nature. Thus, using animals as an example, we should never sacrifice them except to meet our need of food or other truly legitimate reason. Moreover, we should always attempt to spare them suffering.

Indirect theories deny animals' moral status or equal consideration with humans due to a lack of consciousness, reason, or autonomy. Ultimately denying moral  status to animals, these theories may still require not harming animals, but only because doing so causes harm to a human being's morality.

Arguments in this category have been formulated by philosophers such as Immanuel Kant, Rene Descartes, Thomas Aquinas, Peter Carruthers, and various religious theories (Wren np).

It is tragic to see under what conditions and for what reasons certain species of animals are decimated. The suffering inflicted upon them is totally unjustified and proves to what extend human beings may be cruel when guided by the most sordid interests.

Yet it is obvious that if we upset the ecological equilibrium of our planet, we will be the first victim, for, contrary to what one might think, the human species is the most fragile of all. It was the last one to appear on earth, but it would be the first one to disappear from it if this equilibrium should abruptly be ruptured.

We have an obligation to behave with dignity toward other kingdoms of nature and we must set an example of right action to that end.

In that sense, the responsibility of human beings toward our environment is immense, for the exercise of our free will affects the future of a whole chain of evolution, as the chain consists of all forms of life populating our planet.