I have been writing about several issues that have concerned me of late about Namibia, seemingly so very far away. It had been a few years since we set foot in the oldest desert on Earth, on the greatest show on Earth which for megafauna just so happens to be Africa. In Kenya is where I spent four months as a teenager, absolutely bewildered by the uncanny, the voluptuous canopy of life and the ever present reality of being torn to shreds by baboons on lakeside walks. You never know. It gave a young man the stupefying palette of life and the unexpected at every second. The digital world had not yet dug its fangs into the unconscious minds of the millennial generation. And as Nicholas, one of Peter Matthiessen’s guides in Tanzania, told me, if you haven’t spent time in the wild, you haven’t lived. Every moment was full of the real, raw, and remarkable that makes the wilderness the fundamental foundation of our species. There were inconveniences yes, like mosquitoes and potential dangers yes, but nothing like crossing the street in mid Manhattan on a busy Friday afternoon.
Years later my wife and I made sure our son Lysander would be inoculated with something of the absolute wonder of that most inimitable, most photographed continent on Earth because it is where we came from and because it had more to pronounce on states of wonder, awe, and mythic journeys than anywhere else. But we did not do it to be fashionable. There are horrors and joys there beyond compare. The eternal dialectic between creation and dissolution or God or the Creative process and the Devil, if you will, as Isak Dinesen said masterfully, Africa, alone shows you how God and the Devil are one. For every horror Africa has to offer, it has marvels incomparable.
And then when Lysander was three in 2008, we learned of the resumed carnage of the greatest land mammal on Earth — the elephant. We started to speak out and ranted and raved as coherently as possible — faxing Hillary, because God help us, we could not email her. Calling John Kerry’s wife’s office about the elephant massacre, alerting Nat Geo to encourage them to do the first bonfire documentary on the issue which came out in 2013, Vanity Fair, even sending our first 7-minute video in 2010 used by WildAid who led the fantastic campaign in China to stop the ivory trafficking and the slaughter of the greatest land mammal on Earth.
I was beside myself because I knew that a bazooka was aimed right at our son and his generation’s soul. If we had lost the elephant, our place on Earth would have been buried for all time. Although some poaching inevitably continues, and some elephants even take out a few poachers themselves, like the South African elephant who just killed a poacher in Kruger, most of the trade was eliminated in late 2017 by the Chinese government. The world still lost a third of its savanna elephants in a massacre not seen since 30 years ago. Now a decade later, humanity risks losing everything, for all time. The fossil fuel industry, diplomats and bureaucrats must come to their senses, before we all lose our minds.
On the eve of the Glasgow summit we have the opportunity, necessity, and moral obligation to keep from going stark raving mad and to help preserve some semblance of what makes this Earth unique. Its life force, even the banana slugs that are found among the sequoias are found nowhere else on Earth. What happened to the sequoias? Ten percent were burned thanks to climate upheaval and the fires in California. The same people who would have denied the horrors of cigarette smoking have denied the effects of fossil fuels on the human condition. The 30 years we lost could have saved humanity. Now it will be catch up, except that we won’t ever be able to make up for lost time.
It is very very ironic that in the land of the free, freedom is being thrown to the wolves, literally. In a time when woman should be honored for everything they have done for humanity. We continue to treat the better half of humanity like second class citizens. Paid leave? Look at Europe and see how they honor children? 14 weeks paid leave. Look at the cost of education and schools. The standard of living in the U.S. is abysmal. And fewer and fewer students will be going to college than ever. The U.S. will be or already is a vast 3rd world country by comparison to many countries in Europe. The money that could change this country overnight is going to a trillion-dollar defense (read offensive) budget. While children starve, racial inequality is seething and wildlife is being trounced. Uncle Scam has won.
I say we are being thrown to the wolves because soon, there may not be many of these splendid predators left either. Stephen Capra of Footloose Montana went to Helena to testify at the Capital and heard first-hand testimony from the renegade keepers of livestock who defend themselves by saying they are doing the American people a “public service,” double speak if ever there was such a thing. Like saying that ransacking the Capital Building on January 6th was defending Democracy. NASA we have a problem.
Tourists, hard working citizens of a country with an incredible land, drive for hundreds of miles to see the ineffable in Yellowstone — cars lined up in bumper-to-bumper traffic in the hopes of seeing something alive, a wolf, a moose, a grizzly. Something. Anything.
What did the pro wolf killing gentlemen say? The ones who have started their mutilation games of trapping wolves? They feel like they are the victims. That they have been vilified and persecuted and ostracized. Of course they have. While the forests burn from the same mindset that believes that climate change is a hoax. They are the victims of people’s criticizing their hard work, long hours, of trapping, shooting and torturing, maiming with unspeakable cruelty one of the most essential and ineffable species in North America. Wolves, the relatives of your dogs and mine, having to chew their leg off to get out of a trap before a killer comes to collect their skins or body parts to be sold to China. Is that really who we are? When the tally of the wolves comes up and when ticks, and heat and lost forests decimate the wolf population to near zero in 10, or 20 years in the lower 48, lets see how much good will or stability there will be in the land of the shooting spree and home of the crazed.
They are doing America a public service by eliminating the life force from the wild. By eradicating one of the grandest voices on Earth. Also, the traps they set up for capturing wolves are being upset by grizzlies. How dare they. The bears are limiting their wolf catch. They should be allowed to kill more bears. Grizzlies have to go. Grizzlies are getting in the way of killing wolves. Let’s kill grizzlies.
Them brown coats have got to go. Have we lost our minds? I mean completely. It is the same defenders of anti-life who support fracking and tobacco. They may be against abortion but once that child is born, everything that supports life, the entire rug of life is pulled out from under that newborn’s future. Childcare. Good schools. Free lunches. Food without pesticides? Forget it. That’ll teach kids to be born. Hypocrisy writ very, very large. Much bigger than the Statue of Liberty or the Empire State Building or even Niagara Falls. What on earth does this loss, this failing, this unimaginable misery have to say about America?
Years ago Rachel Carson, who died at the ripe old age of 57, reminded us about pollution. Pollution starts in the mind. The Hopi elders I met 30 years ago told me that the problems start when the one becomes two. When the truth about the sanctity of life is divided. We have definitely reached that stage morally and philosophically in this country. If America does not survive the decade, let alone the mid-century mark, it will be because life has been left to fend in the narrow, dirty, lonely streets of homeless millions, vagrants without dreams, wolves or no wolves without forests.
It's beyond tragic. So while some of the last wolves in the American West are being gutted and ripped apart by metal traps and shot like vermin, let us remember what they stood for.
Freedom and life and fur bearing irrefutable miracle of potential and the vital in all its glory. Many environmental groups that should have fused their efforts to petition the reinstatement of the wolf on the Endangered Species Act were always divided, always following their own agendas. They have constantly been told by politicians, “Thank you for your concerns.” We asked many times for the Secretary of the Interior to let her voice be known for the wildlife of America and the Indigenous people who did not go around slaughtering, maiming, torturing the treasures of life for fun. An alien civilization and very good peoples here on Earth would consider that beyond psychotic and sadistic. They would say we need new minds. And a heart that actually works. Fast. Too many of us have neither.
Somewhere in the last forests of the lower 48 states in the northern Rockies a killing spree and open season is eradicating a species like no other in America — the wolf. Politicians, diplomats, many of them bought by vested interests, have been phenomenally lazy in getting at the roots of this problem. We demonize the other and turn the other cheek. They are wrestling with huge issues but one of them stands squarely in the forehead of the American West where the last vestiges of freedom still remain. The last predators and the body of the wolf who uphold what remains of the wild. And our ability to be free before the cyborgs come knocking at our door. If we can’t stop the massacre of the innocent how can we possibly stop the loss of the entire world, pray tell?
Learn more about Cyril Christo and Marie Wilkinson's work at their website.