Correction: A previous version of this story included a mis-attributed quote.
We have inherited a plague, several plagues that have come from the abuse and deranged treatment of animals with whom we share this planet. The latest plague from China. One day it may come from the Amazon or the boreal forest of Canada. The meat and factory “farming” of animals, it should be called flaying, is a major culprit in our industrial scale torture of animals when in the old days, animals were raised locally, as they should be. We know who the apostles are who have spoken for the rights of animals, the other animals, but now the human animal today is looking at his or her own dissolution. It is the biggest issue of our time. Humanity or rather civilization has always had feuds, raids and more recently all out wars. Rarely has it been existential in the long run. Now it is. We will not survive without the other.
America has been particularly complicit in the wholesale elimination of animal life. The last passenger pigeon Martha died on the eve of WW1. There used to be hundreds of millions. Like clockwork, the two events coincided almost exactly. No coincidence. Just a few generations earlier the great, great spellbinding herds of buffalo were destroyed almost completely. Something in terms of scale and number unprecedented in human history. America did that. That wholesale massacre of tens of millions of buffalo was concomitant with what we did to the first peoples of America who hold the answers in many ways to our survival, from honoring the land, to honoring life itself. The continued war on wildlife, very recent in the history of our species is a civilizational thing or uncivilizational event because America has been particularly barbaric since its foundation. Therefore the need for some to eliminate the teaching of what America is about in schools. One cannot rewrite history. There are those in denial about the core of America. Its ideals are also being flayed, the “life, liberty and pursuit of happiness” section will soon be out of reach for most of us thanks to big oil and the heat of the world. The continued pursuit of oil in the Arctic and in the peat bogs of the Congo (enough carbon emissions to equal three year’s worth for our entire planet) is insanity. We may not have weaved the web of life as Chief Seattle once said, but we are doing a remarkable job of weaving the noose now tightening around our collective neck.
All over the world, from Russian oil rigs in the Arctic where the last multi meter thick ice is struggling to hold on, to Canada looking for oil near the Okavango Delta are wreaking devastation on the Earth’s last wildernesses. Right on the heels of cop26, as if humanity were half brain dead and part sadistic. The children of the world don’t get it.
In Montana and Idaho, right now, the frenzied whole scale obliteration of the wolf continues.
Ecologists, conservationists and activists have screamed at the devil in the gun of the killers who pass off their own hollow manhood into a being they see as the devil incarnate. And some wish to do the same to the grandfather of the forest, the grizzly. We need a scapegoat, even though very, very few goats and cows are actually taken by wolves, nothing that the state government could not make up for. Why don’t they? The Maasai in Kenya are recompensed for their lost cows due to lions. In Israel one’s livestock, if taken out by a leopard, or jackal or wolf is also recompensed. Do the states of Montana or Idaho not have a few dollars to throw at recompensing farmers or ranchers? Or is something much deeper going on. A type of military grade psychosis or hate for a being that was flayed alive in medieval France. I was born there so I feel particular shame for a country that has so much pride. And they also burnt so-called witches because they were pagan and were a counterweight to the Church. For shame. The wolves were called “a cruel beast.” Humans were and are infinitely crueler. Have wolves ever flayed humans alive?
As Mary Midgley, the great moral philosopher, asks, “or to take in the fact that the only animal that does this sort of thing is Homo Sapiens.” They have been accused of treachery for millennia. “They would creep up on people secretly, and then attack so suddenly that their victims did not have time to defend themselves. The idea that wolves would starve if they always gave fair warning” never occurs to their persecutors. “Wolves in fact have traditionally been blamed for being carnivores, which is doubly surprising since the people who blamed them normally ate meat themselves, and were not, as the wolf is, compelled by their stomachs to do so.”
The press of late in America and even Europe in Scandinavia have highlighted, alarmingly, how hundreds of wolves are being targeted and persecuted, not coincidentally in a time when we should be regarding practically everything that breathes as a gift. Especially now while Russia is poised to take over Ukraine and China, Taiwan. Especially now that the ice is reeling and begging humanity to mend its ways, it beggars the imagination that humanity threatens large scale devastation. When nature is on its knees, we should be using every heart, mind and dollar bill to help the planet. It is our rapacity for killing and murder that needs to be condemned once and for all because Nature is telling us things and imposing a pandemic that should be regarded as a grand lesson in humility. We are not the “titular lords of nature” as Immanuel Kant once wrote. We are being shown that the smallest of beings can bring on the downfall of a civilization. They are called microbes. Wolves hardly ever take us out. Neither do bears or lions or sharks by comparison to what we do to them.
So there is a lesson here. Either we redirect our misplaced morality and fear of mortality or find that one day we will obliterate ourselves. I am far more terrified that Russia and America create a third world war than I am to be eaten by a wolf. Our rage towards ourselves is aiming a large caliber gun at the innocent, who happen to be big wolves, not bad, just big. One day we will want to know that something lurks in the forest primeval.
We will need to realize soon that animals are magnificent just being themselves. “Is there nothing to a giraffe except being a person manque?” Asked Midgely. I sense not. And so do the children asking the adult world to stop killing the innocent as Extinction Rebellion is doing. Because in killing the others, we are killing ourselves. We have exactly this year to turn things around. With the predators, the oceans, the forests. If we are not very, very careful, there will quite simply, and very soon, be nothing left. Without humans, animals will be fine. Without the bees and everything else that breathes out there — we perish. To turn the ship around. We are facing extinction before the century’s end. Let us become fully human, in the best sense, before we run out of time.
Today, in America it must start by giving the wolf and what is left of the other species maximum protection. Can we, as a nation, possibly imagine what a non-conservation minded administration will do, if and when they assume the reins of power again?
The world can only imagine. The world can only shudder. The time to act is now.
Learn more about Cyril Christo and Marie Wilkinson’s work at their website.