Recently, the National Geographic released a disturbing video of a malnutritioned polar bear in the Canadian territory of the Baffin Islands. The polar bears are in the front lines in the battle against climate change because they rely on the ice and feast on seals that live in the ice. Due to the climate change, the ice in the polar regions have melted exponentially, thus the habitat the polar bears rely on is disappearing. In Sarah Gibbens’ article, Heart-Wrenching Video Shows Starving Polar Bear on Iceless Land, Gibbens quotes the filmmaker, Paul Nicklen, ‘“We stood there crying—filming with tears rolling down our cheeks.”’ Nicklen also mentioned that he considered intervening by giving the polar bear some sustenance, but he would only be deferring the torment and the inevitable. As long as the ice continues to melt or ice calving continues to occur then the lives of these animals will be in danger. Their extinction is not a swift one that we can ignore because they are leaving slowly and painfully.
The animal documented is one of many that are suffering the extent of human greed and displacement. In different regions around the world there are wildlife habitats that are in danger because of the demand in the various type of oils, agriculture, emittance of CO2, and the materialistic and mythical notion that items such as ivory and gills bring for people. Every species in the world has an important role in their environmental niche and removing a particular species is detrimental to the rest of the niche. For instance, predators, low in numbers, sustain the population of prey from growing. The more grazers there are in the world the more degradation of land there will be, therefore, other species will die off. To illustrate, in a TED talk given by George Monbiot, Monbiot states that there was a phenom in Yellowstone National Park when wolves were reintroduced into the wild in 1995. Due to the absence of predators in the park, the grazers managed to reduce the vegetation to almost nothing. Even Though the wolves were at a disadvantage by population, they started to not only eat the grazers, but also transformed the region and gave life to other species. The grazers understood that they were being hunted, so they began to avoid different areas in the park, thus the vacant areas started growing with vegetation. The regrowth of vegetation attracted birds and beavers- nestled in the trees and opened a new ecosystem for many other species. Rabbit population started to rise as well because the coyote population was being sustained as well by the wolves. Predatory birds, bears, foxes, and weasels began their return because of the spring in rabbits. Monbiot also states that the wolves also transformed the flow of the rivers because of the stabilization of collapsible banks. Unfortunately, underdeveloped countries are facing quite the opposite (Monbiot 3:30-6:45).
As we travel from the United States to the Sumatran Rainforest in Indonesia, the effects of deforestation becomes more profound in which the rainforest is home to a lot of endangered species. In the article, ‘The Last Place on Earth’: How Sumatra’s Rainforest is Being Cleared for Palm Oil,” Naomi Larsson explains that the world’s demand for palm oil has reached an all time high, thus has companies such as PT Agra Bumi Niaga (ABN) illegally growing plantations in deforested areas. The company has been accused of illegally growing and distributing palm oil, but no legal action has been taken. The ABN holds approximately 2000 hectares and some of the land falls in the Leuser ecosystem; a fragile ecosystem. (Larsson). Palm oil is especially used in United States’ products because it is easier to contain and holds up the value of the product. Food is one of the top contributors for the oil because companies replaced some trans-fat due to a more economical outlook. Furthermore, The Union of Concerned Scientists explain that these biomes will only attract more plantations because of the rich soil due to the area being burned down. Moreover, the Sumatran Forest is home to a great ape, the Orangutan. The Orangutans rely on the trees because it keeps them away from predators on the ground. Predators such as the Sumatran Tigers face the fires, starvation, and the workers operating the machinery. Larsson describes the area as The Last Place on Earth because it is also home to rhinos and elephants; the coexisting of these species is what makes the forest.
In Africa, there are conflicts between tribes and the government due to the greed that involves western countries. The Netflix documentary, Virunga, captures the desolation of the war in the Congo. Overall, there is a lot of resources in Africa such as oil, ivory, and minerals. The documentary depicts Rangers living their lives with the last of the rhinos and offer the rhinos protection. The Virunga National Park is home to the mountain gorillas and poaching has always been a problem especially with the rangers lives on the line. Western companies, S.O.C.O., have infiltrated the park and began extracting oil and gas for their greed. A rebel army has been dispatched to support the westerners in the war. The rebels are the ones being paid to move in and eradicate those who oppose. Another animal that is being threatened is the elephant. The elephant has been hunted because of their ivory tusks. In the documentary, The Ivory Game, director Kief Davidson captures the actual battle to save the elephants and the importance of ivory in China. The film follows rangers attempting to protect some of the oldest elephants in the region, but unfortunately, do not make it at the end. Furthermore, Davidson follows a young man from China that wants to shed some light in the ivory game to his country. Some of the ivory sells for more than $200,000 and the scarce ivory is the more the black market condones poaching because it will raise their prices due to the rarity. Elephants like wolves open doors to many other species in Africa. Elephants eat seeds and unintentionally plant them while they migrate. Without the help of elephants some plant species would be extinct due to the digestive nature in elephants (Imagining A World Without Elephants). Ben Guarino also states that elephants uproot trees and become a habitat for different fauna. For some, elephants can be a nuisance because they trek in places where humans reside, thus, the people want to kill the elephants. Others, like Allan Savory, have killed thousands of elephants because he understood that they were overgrazing the land into desert much faster. The movement to remove elephants did not help the land. Savory gave a TED talk on how to remove desertification and challenge climate change in which he states that killing the thousands of elephants proved to be a mistake.
The continents are not the only regions that are being affected by human activity. Mark Zaloudek’s article, Turning the Tide?, Zalouck explains that the loss of the reefs becomes detrimental to the land mass. The barrier reefs act as a buffer zone for the continent. Hurricanes and storm surges are lessened in strength because the barrier reefs take most of the beating. Unknowingly, human activity is collapsing the beauty and resilience of the barrier. One of the main contributors is the tourist attractions. Irresponsible use of anchoring plays a big role in tearing apart the reef. High rise in CO2 is another contributor to the extinction of the reefs. The reefs are deteriorating and losing the pigmentation because of irresponsible dumping from factories and the CO2 levels in the ocean. Zaloudek also discusses that the reefs offer different marine life. Fishermen would have a hard time catching fish because fish rely on the reef ecosystems as a source of food and defense from predators. Zaloudek estimates that within thirty-forty years 30% of the corals have died with minimal recovery. (Turning the Tide?).
As time goes by, people generally do not think about where the product they invest in come from or what the effects of it are. With the current president and his administration, it seems as if they want to continue the burn baby, burn model. They recently reorganized the Bears Ears monument in order to make room for the extraction of oil. This issue is parallel to what is happening in other underdeveloped countries. Who is to blame for the plight of the wildlife and their ecosystems? As intelligent beings, humans are not taking care of the world and it seems as if the world is past the point of no return. If there is a return, then it will be detrimental to the world economy and the lives of many people. Wildlife have an agenda and that is to survive and proliferate, but without a habitat that seems unlikely. One of the documentees in The Ivory Game stated that pretty soon all there will be left in the world is humans; without any fauna. Imagine that.
Davidson, Kief. “The Ivory Game.” Netflix Official Site, 4 Nov. 2016, www.netflix.com/search?q=ivory&jbv=80117533&jbp=0&jbr=0. 11 Dec 2017.
Einsiedel, Orlando von. "Virunga." Netflix Official Site. Netflix, 07 Nov. 2014. Web. 11 Dec 2017.
Gibbens, Sarah. “Heart-Wrenching Video Shows Starving Polar Bear on Iceless Land.”National Geographic, National Geographic Society, 9 Dec. 2017, news.nationalgeographic.com/2017/12/polar-bear-starving-arctic-sea-ice-melt-climate-change-spd/. Web. 11 Dec 2017.
Guarino, Ben. “Imagining A World Without Elephants.” The Dodo, The Dodo, 21 Nov. 2014, www.thedodo.com/world-without-elephants-832031961.html. Web. 11 Dec 2017.
Larsson, Naomi. “'The Last Place on Earth': How Sumatra's Rainforest Is Being Cleared for Palm Oil.” The Guardian, Guardian News and Media, 28 Sept. 2017, www.theguardian.com/sustainable-business/2017/sep/28/last-place-on-earth-deforestation-palm-oil-threat-leuser-rainforest. Web. 11 Dec 2017.
Monbiot, George. “For More Wonder, Rewild the World.” TED: Ideas Worth Spreading, July 2013, www.ted.com/talks/george_monbiot_for_more_wonder_rewild_the_world#t-413782. Web. 11 Dec 2017.
Savory, Allan. “How to Fight Desertification and Reverse Climate Change.” TED: Ideas Worth Spreading, www.ted.com/talks/allan_savory_how_to_green_the_world_s_deserts_and_reverse_climate_change. Web. 11 Dec 2017.
"Turning the Tide?" Environmental Issues: Essential Primary Sources, edited by Brenda Wilmoth Lerner and K. Lee Lerner, Gale, 2006, pp. 181-184. Gale Virtual ReferenceLibrary,mms02.cerritos.edu:2048/login?url=http://go.galegroup.com/ps/i.do?p=GVRL&sw=w&u=cerritos&v=2.1&it=r&id=GALE%7CCX3456400077&asid=7cf35c4ef0a979ab60d62928a9ad8bd1. Accessed 11 Dec 2017.
"What's Driving Deforestation: Palm Oil." Union of Concerned Scientists. N.p., n.d. Web. 11 Dec 2017.