July 6, 2020
I read an article in SMITHSONIANMAG.COM about a new word being proposed by scientists. During this period of worldwide lock down the lack of activity has been noticed by the animals that live in our midst. Apparently, some people have begun to call this period the “Great Pause.” Christian Rutz and a group of researchers wanted a more precise name. “We propose ‘anthropause’ to refer specifically to a considerable global slowing of modern human activities, notably travel.” The authors go on to say this presents a unique opportunity to study human-animal interaction. Sadly, such interactions are rarely good for the other animals.
I went fishing last week along the Mulberry River. I had wanted to go to the city park at Bluff Hole. The last time I had gone the water was high and I was not able to fish. This time I arrived to find a caretaker living in a trailer at the entrance and a posting requiring a $5 entrance fee. Since all I had was a ten, I decided to find a different place to fish. I drove through another park with the same requirement to get further down the river. I put out my line and immediately caught a bluegill which I used as bait for my cat pole. As I sat on the bank a doe and her fawn came to the water on the other side. We looked at each other and she was unafraid. They got their drink and moved on.
In the book, Guns, Germs and Steel, Jared Diamond correlated the movement of humans with extinction of Megafauna. When humans branched out of Africa, they found the large game plentiful. By 10,000 years ago we had wiped out the large herbivores and their predators from Europe, the Arctic, Australia, and the Americas. These extinctions all occur in conjunction with the introduction of humans. Elizabeth Kolbert is a biologist who outlines the rapid increase of extinctions of all flora and fauna in the book, The Sixth Extinction. She estimates between 20-50% of all species will be lost by the end of this century. The first five mass extinctions were caused by cataclysmic events. The sixth is by us.
THOUGHTS: I read another article by Michelle Starr about the role of Humans in animal extinctions. Our evolving brains greatly impacted predators, as our ancestors learned it was easier to steal a meal than to hunt one, a trait still found in chimpanzees. The problem we have is our ability to innovate and adapt. This ability is allowing us to double our numbers twice in the last century, and the plants and animals are being pushed aside to make room. The earth has established biotic communities where each species interacts to give life to the whole. When you remove some of the players you can destroy the balance and the result is extinction. If you can, work to keep the conversation going.