Thursday, December 10, 2009

Matt my mate 3: Kangaroos in the midst

Adelaide, South Australia.

Another splendorous day in Adelaide. It rained today. Then it turned sunny and warm. Then windy. Now it's fairly cold. They say it will be 36C next Wednesday. Very unstable weather. Lovely, nevertheless.

Yesterday I had the rare experience of feeding a kangaroo. Their fur is so tender. Their anatomy so peculiar. Their reproductive cycle so mysterious. They have been considered a plague in Australia, and thousands of miles of anti-kangaroo fences have been set up to keep them out of some places. They roam this land like they own it. There are millions of them all around.

Next Sunday will be the grand première of WangWang and FuNi, two pandas on loan from China to the Adelaide Zoo for ten years. They are the first pandas in the Southern Hemisphere. The Chinese government does great efforts at preserving pandas and their habitats. The panda has become a global icon of endangered wildlife. The reservations to see a panda in Adelaide are fully booked for six weeks. The local zoo has constructed a state-of-the-art, 8-million-dollar special facility for those two gorgeous animals. Imagine what the Chinese would do to be able to feed a kangaroo in China!

Then there (still) are sharks, those feared, pre-historic beasts that roam the seas searching for human hips to nibble on. As if a billion hips were nibbled on in 1989, when approximately those many sharks roamed the waters. Today, it is calculated that some 100 million sharks remain in the world (90% population decline in last 20 years), and that, at this rate of consumption of mostly shark fin and mainly in China, they will be in the brink of extinction in a couple of decades.

That is terribly bad news. Because if we manage to exterminate a fierce combatant like the shark, sharper and more sensitive than any Bodhisattva or Samurai or Monk, with seven senses (two more than humans!), then we are at high risk of extinction at our own hands. Human against human, perhaps eaten until the last lady finger [never thought I'd ever use it that way!], way past the last kangaroo and dog and bird.

The gravest consequence of inaction towards climate change mitigation is that we can soon reach a tipping point beyond which all species will be subjected to extreme pressure for resources. Without water, for example, humans do not subsist more than 72 hours. If you were an elephant, how long would you wait for the rains to come at the end of the dry season before migrating in search of water elsewhere as quickly as possible? And if you were a human? And if you had a baby? Dying of thirst is probably as gruesome as choking, but much slower. Completely alive until the last bit of water from your driest muscle. Ouch. That hurt. That's why it is mandatory that we do whatever is within our individual and collective power to make it impossible for a human being to die of thirst [in this argument, I stand shoulder to shoulder with Bjørn Lomborg in support for his Copenhagen Consensus]. Or hunger. Or AIDS. Or tuberculosis. Or gunshots.

It is all connected. We are all connected. The loss of an African child with no name because she had no water, is a loss for all of us. That's why the only way out of Climate Change is peace [Gandhi must have said it already. Perhaps even Fidel Castro on the Rio Summit in 1992]. Peace among the people and across species. That if we cannot experience the joy of hugging a tree, at least we may enjoy the tenderness of feeding a kangaroo [while its baby held its head out, as if posing for the photo...]

I hope we can all hug a koala and not have to pay $30 to do it [I didn't; petting them was for free ;) ], or hug a panda without having to pay 1000 Renminbi (RMB) for such unique experience.

So, let's all petition our governments to call on a radical ban for shark finning to assess the situation of the species and ways in which the harvesting of the fin could be done sustainably. Or better, that governments unite to request China -through diplomatic channels, as it should- to crack down shark fin soup. There is no smuggling legally-sold commodities into China. Especially the faster they progress towards the Rule of Law.

In the process, foreign NGOs could support the Chinese Ministry of Civil Affairs (where all NGOs must register in order to operate in the country) in establishing country-wide education campaigns to explain sustainability. There would be great support from the Chinese government (especially since they will have to guarantee that the information divulged in the campaign is aligned with public policy) and from private capital as well, and NGOs could recruit millions of Chinese young adult volunteers, conforming China's army of peace. That would, not only save the shark, but probably the panda and it habitat too.

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