Monday, August 22, 2016

Talking About Elephants

In the midst of last week's craziness, I somehow missed the fact that August 12tth was World Elephant Day.  But elephants should be celebrated every day, right?  So let's make today World Elephant Day Part II, for those of us who couldn't make it to Part I.
When I was little, elephants were right up there with dinosaurs and Peter Pan as a favorite subject, and I still remember reading Lizzie the Elephant over and over again with my grandmother and lining up my plastic elephant figurines along the side of the bathtub.  Elephants represented all that I held most dear to me--love, family, empathy, sticking together--and the selfless, unwavering compassion and strength of female elephants reminded me of my mum and grandmother.  But I also knew that the elephant world was full of tragedy. I have fuzzy memories of a documentary movie, watched late one Friday night after my mum got home from another six-to-six shift, in which a baby elephant got separated from his mother and couldn't find her before the poachers got to her.  And then there was Dumbo, that tearjerker of a child's film that made me cry every time I watched it.

From National Geographic's Michael Nichols: an elephant mother, her babies, and
the orphans she's caring for

Not my meme. Just my feelings.
Dumbo, of course, is an animated Disney film, but elephants in the real world are being abused in circuses, and in the wild, they're facing habitat destruction and hunting. (The whole ivory industry and everything it's willing to do for money is a this.)  I did a project this year on elephants as a species/threats to their survival/etc., and, even though I knew a lot of the stuff already just from the news and living with my former-environmental lawyer mum, it was still disturbing to see just how dire the situation is for so many elephants--especially because their situation closely reflects the situations of thousands of other animals (like rhinos...and pandas....and polar bears).  The truth is that, despite all our efforts to help them, animals are really struggling, and their lives won't get better unless we make major changes.  I know you've heard this before, but I can't help but to reiterate it because it is *so* important that things get better before it's too late.  Right now, the trend is for animals on the IUCN Red List to become increasingly endangered and then eventually extinct. Numerous species had this happen to them recently: the passenger pigeon, the Caribbean monk seal, the Pyrebean ibex . . . it's a list that's way too long.  But what if we could REVERSE the trend? What if, instead of animals becoming more endangered over time, they actually became less endangered?  Wouldn't that be AWESOME?  Easy answer: yes.  Yes, it would.  Habitat destruction, pollution, and overhunting are all major threats to Earth's little loved ones, but the human race, as it is unfortunately behind these threats, has the power to put an end to them and actually change the world for the better.  Our individual actions and voices may seem insignificant sometimes, but, when it comes to these sorts of issues, doing anything is better than doing nothing.  If we ignore what's going on, we're going to open our eyes one day and realize elephants (etc.) are gone and that it's too late to save them.  If we open our eyes TODAY, though, we can prevent that future from happening.

<3 Frances

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