A News Commentary by Niagara At Large reporter and publisher Doug Draper
“Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.” ~ Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
“The question is, are we happy to suppose that our grandchildren may never be able to see an elephant except in a picture book?” ~ David Attenborough
“Here we are, arguably the most intelligent being that ever walked planet Earth, with this extraordinary brain, yet we’re destroying the only home we have.” ~ Jane Goodall
Posted October 18th, 2021 on Niagara At Large
Late this past September, CBC broadcast news that should upset anyone concerned about the health of our planet.
The news was released by an American agency in a report that began like this – “The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is proposing to remove 23 species from the Endangered Species Act (ESA) due to extinction. Based on rigorous reviews of the best available science for each of these species, the Service has determined these species are extinct, and thus no longer require listing under the ESA.”
This is news that should both shock and jar us in to taking more action to protect and preserve the biodiversity vital to sustaining all life on this planet, but with so much else coming at us around the continued trials and tribulations of COVID-19, a report of even more species disappearing forever seemed to barely raise a whisper.
Around the same time this news came out, and while going through files of old news clippings in my house with a mind to consigning some of it to a recycling bin, I found a column I wrote about endangered species more than 25 years ago, while still working as an environment reporter for The St. Catharines Standard.
Sadly, that column strikes me as one that is just as relevant, if not more so, than So I am reprising it at a time when the Doug Ford government in Ontario has severely weakened the province’s Endangered Species Act rules on behalf of the pirates in the development and home building industry who support his Conservative Party with short-sighted, narrow-minded greed-driven zeal.
Here is my 1994 Viewpoint piece on loosing precious species on our earth –
When Will Humans End the New Holocaust?
A Viewpoint by Doug Draper, 0riginally published September 10th, 1994 (Some of the great people mentioned in this piece are, unfortunately, no longer with us. D.D.)
“In wilderness is the preservation of the world.” – Henry David Thoreau
The Bronze-Faced cat stares out of the cover of the glossy magazine – looking intense and intelligent.
But not intelligent enough, it seems.
Inside the cover of Life’s September issue, we learn that this Florida panther is one of roughly 50 of its kind left in the world.
“Before human beings arrived, only one out of a million species died of natural causes, every year,” says an article in the magazine. “With pesticides, pollutants and our chain-saw massacre of whole ecosystems, we are killing tens of thousands of species each year.”
The article goes on to list numerous other species of wildlife our modern world has condemned to death row with its scorched-earth, take-no-prisoners approach to growth and development.
Looking at photo after photo of these endangered plants and animals, one wonders when (if ever) enough of us will rise up and put an end to this holocaust.
Where are all the public opinion polls showing that people are concerned about the ravaging of our environment? Where are our public health organizations? Where are the so-called “right to life” forces that speak out so vehemently for the sanctity of life?
Human arrogance is truly blind if we can’t see that our health and welfare, and that of future generations, depends on the health and welfare of other living creatures. Each time we rip another thread from the fabric of life on the planet, we weaken the fabric and bring ourselves another step closer to reducing our own chances for survival.
Fortunately, there are people around who are concerned enough to do something.
In our region, there are people like Mary Ellen Hebb of St. Catharines, a former president of the Peninsula Field Naturalists, who has helped put peregrine falcons back from the ecological precipice, and who has spoken out against the loss of wildlife habitat and the irresponsible use of pesticides.
There is Carla Carlson, acting past-president of the field naturalists who is now waging an uphill battle to keep developers from wiping out a large wooded area where numerous species of wildlife dwell near her family home in Thorold.
In Lincoln, there are Kay and Larry McKeever, who have done as much as anyone in North America to keep owls from failing off the precipice through their decades of tireless works at their owl sanctuary. There is Margaret Reed, who has done as much as a single individual canto spare some of the wild beauty of the Niagara Escarpment at her beloved Cave Springs.
In Pelham, there is long-time educator and conservationist Wally Poole, who has devoted years to reconstructing habitat areas for wildlife and who played a pioneering role in bringing environmental studies into elementary and secondary school classrooms despite the indifference of our school boards.
And there is Catherine Ens, president of Niagara Action For Animals, who has had more than her share of scorn hurled at her for trying to raise public awareness about the exportation of animals for furs, cosmetics and entertainment.
Each of these people, in their own way, is doing what he or she can to reverse the juggernaut of species extinction. They should be role models for the rest of the humanity to leave softer footprints on the natural landscape.
But for every Hebb, Carlson, McKeever, Reed, Poole and Ens, there are still thousands of people flocking to circuses to watch animals perform demeaning tricks for their amusement. There are thousands more hunting them down and destroying them for body parts or for “pleasure.”
There is the ongoing sprawl of humanity into the countryside, using up more and more of the habitat that many species need to survive.
There is even a group in North America called “Putting People First” – the very existence of which is about as absurd as having a group that advocates eating.
As if we haven’t already been following this group’s credo of putting people first almost every time we perceive a conflict between our interests and those of other living creatures.
If you don’t believe it, just take another look at the cat on the cover of Life Magazine and multiply that cat’s possible loss with the predicted loss of one-third of all species on Earth before the end of the first half of the 21st century.
Life ran a cover story last year on a series of storms and floods that plagued various regions of the United States which asked the question: “Why has nature gone mad?”
The question would be better directed at ourselves.
We humans have barely been around a fraction of the billions of years it has taken for the ecosystem to evolve and we have already made a mark as the most wantonly destructive force on the planet.
We are the ones that have gone mad and whether or not we change is entirely up to us.
- Doug Draper, Niagara At Large, and a former St. Catharines Standard environment report who saw that beat purged when the newspaper was taken hostage in the ate 1990s by Conrad Black and his Hollinger corporation.
I will leave you with this – a most moving piece produced by the World Wildlife Fund as a plea to all of us to save elephants from extinction. You may have seen this on one broadcast outlet or another already, but in case you haven’t, click on the screen immediately below –
To read the news released this past September by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service on the latest list of species gone extinct in North American, click on – https://www.fws.gov/news/ShowNews.cfm?ref=u.s.-fish-and-wildlife-service-proposes-delisting-23-species-from-&_ID=37017
For related news, click on the following links –
NIAGARA AT LARGE Encourages You To Join The Conversation By Sharing Your Views On This Post In The Space Following The Bernie Sanders Quote Below.
Because too many people are disconnected from nature and/or caught up in their own problems to be concerned with nature or anyone elses issues. They don’t know, don’t care, oblivious to what’s around them. They are in cars, in houses, on cell phones living in a human built environments, not the natural environment. My daily walks I’m continually picking up discarded face masks and Tim Horton and MacDonald’s litter even if there’s a nearby garbage bin. It’s a disposable world to many. Mostly poor leadership examples from industry and politics. If the people ‘in charge’ don’t care, what’s the point?
Excellent article Doug and I love your “throwback piece”. Appears we have a hard time learning and applying what we have learned: talk is cheap! Friends of 12 Mile Creek appreciate your continued support of environmental issues and your journalistic integrity in reporting on these issues for over 30 years!
Very kind words, Doug. I am constantly bewildered at society and now think of animals who ARE flourishing in the areas around Chernobyl Exclusion Zone because there are no humans around to cause problems for them. Is that what we have to do to appreciate wildlife and indeed human life – blow ourselves up and leave behind a wasteland?? (see: https://theconversation.com/chernobyl-has-become-a-refuge-for-wildlife-33-years-after-the-nuclear-accident-116303
A Brief Note from Doug Draper at Niagara At Large – By the way, I am sure Cath Hurwood would not mind me letting readers know that she is identified as Catherine Ens in the Viewpoint piece from all those years ago.