Our planet has been in a stable form because of the connections between things, both tangible and intangible, that don’t meet the eye. Not many people know that marine life, both sea animals as well as the coral reefs keep the earth cool. The ocean water belt that moves around the world completing a cycle in about a 1,000 years helps keep the temperature of the Earth stable. Whales move around the oceans carrying nutrients and help provide half of the oxygen humans breathe on Earth.
Sharks are the top predator of the ocean helping to maintain the ocean’s ecosystem by preying on the animals below in the food chain. Sharks shift the spatial habitat of their prey and in this way they help keep the coral reefs and sea grass alive. Sharks have been around for about 450 million years. They are older than the dinosaurs and even the trees. They survived four mass extinctions. Lo and behold, they are on the brink of extinction today because of humans’ vulgar and unstoppable killing of them. We are killing 100 million sharks every year. By removing sharks as well and whales completely, we will remove the invisible connection they have to our survival. We will accelerate climate change.
The oceans absorb the heat that humans produce with their relentless carbon emissions but this ability of the ocean is dying very fast. The coral reefs around the world are dying. The excessive fishing around the world has made many fish species go extinct and there is not much marine life left to help us have a balanced existence on the surface.
The polar ice cap keeps the level of the water in balance. About 71% of our planet is water. Only 2% of that is fresh water. The rest is in the form of glaciers. Those glaciers being white in colour reflect much of the sun’s heat back into space, avoiding the heating of the planet. Due to increasing carbon emissions, that ice is melting with an unprecedented and unbelievable speed. If this trend continues, which it is, the invisible connection we have with that ice would manifest itself very vividly and the roaring water would become our worst enemy. Coastal cities would be inundated with water and would eventually be submerged. Cities that today are not by the sea would become coastal towns before drowning.
Humans are wired that way. That is our most important invisible connection to who we are. As Carl Sagan rightly said that we are like newborn babies left at someone’s doorsteps without some piece of paper explaining who our parents are. The dead hands of our ancestors guide our behaviour. Our lust for overreach, our drive for more, our curiosity for the unknown, and so forth are all connected to those who came before us. They may have been hunter gatherers or the post-agricultural revolution civilisation loving settlers, but we humans are noisy, sexy, selfish, greedy and curious. We humans cannot understand why we behave how we behave unless we realise that there is an unseen connection with those who came before us.
We are in danger because we are the danger. We have almost halved the number of other species that used to exist not too long ago. We are the lonely species that are a lot in number. We are killing the biodiversity we need to keep us alive and avoid the disaster of climate change that we have brought upon ourselves in a span of a generation.
If democracy is held between humans and animals, humans will win because we have increased our number so much while causing animals to disappear. But here is a sad truth to realise: while all animal species and plants keep us alive with their actions, we are killing them with our actions. That lethality and suicidal tendency is our invisible connection to who we are.
Published in The Express Tribune, November 2nd, 2020.
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