By this time, I don’t think it will shock anyone if I come right out and admit that I’m not a bleeding heart. When I read about a lava flow or an earthquake taking 500 theoretically innocent lives on the other side of the world, my first reaction is to ask myself if I knew anyone who might be visiting Sumatra or Mongolia. If the answer is no, my second reaction is to get on with my life.
There are, I’m well aware, many nicer, kinder people around -- the sort of folks who immediately organize collection drives, so that blankets, canned goods and medical supplies, can be rushed to the survivors. Quite honestly, that would never even occur to me. In fact, when the giant tsunami hit Indonesia a while back, my initial thought was that, as with Sodom and Gomorrah, God was sending a long overdue message to a part of the world where the child sex trade is a major industry.
I do have a hunch, though, that a lot of the same people who are always ready to provide pajamas and peanut butter to people they don’t know are the same ones who hold candlelight vigils outside prisons when serial killers are being executed. Whenever I see them huddled outside in the cold, looking as if they’re posing for stained glass windows, I always find myself wondering how they treat their spouses and their kids when they pack up their candles and go back home.
All that being said, it should come as no big surprise when I confess that I am not in line to receive awards from the ecological zealots. That’s not to suggest that I wouldn’t offer bounties for the hides of spray-painting vandals (aka taggers, graffiti artists, public nuisances). But I certainly wouldn’t ban cigarette smoking in the great outdoors or even in bars and restaurants if the owners wish to encourage that sort of thing. If you don’t like cigarette smoke getting in your eyes, lungs or clothing, you eat, drink and get a job someplace else. If rolling out the red carpet to smokers is a really lousy idea, the place will go out of business. That’s the way it’s supposed to work in a free society.
Something else I find irksome is the constant moaning over endangered species. I recently read an article that claimed the earth has gone through four major periods of mass extinctions. About 440 million years ago, give or take a month or so, 85% of marine animal species were wiped out. Roughly 70 million years later, many species of fish and marine invertebrates perished. Then, 245 million years ago, another major extinction of sea and land creatures took place. Finally, a mere 65 million years ago, 75% of all species -- including dinosaurs and saber-toothed tigers -- took French leave. The causes of these massive upheavals have been attributed to volcanic eruptions, huge meteorites and climatic changes which obviously had nothing to do with human beings or the internal combustion engine.
When I read about all those species vanishing from the face of the earth, my immediate reaction is “So what?” But after due deliberation, my response changes from one of mild disinterest to one of jubilation. Imagine if every single time you went outside to collect your newspaper, you had to fight a tyrannosaur for it or had to worry that a pterodactyl was going to swoop down because its idea of fast food is you.
Apparently, there are presently 10 million different species of animal life on earth. Even though, according to this article I read, only a small percent of all animal life has been evaluated, the ecologists estimate that 750 species of fish, 290 species of reptiles and 150 species of amphibians, are currently at risk.
Inasmuch as dogs, cats, horses, llamas, bunnies, cows and guinea pigs, aren’t on the list, frankly, my dear, I don’t give a darn. I mean, how many different kinds of reptiles does anyone need to be really, truly happy?
Thanks to Al Gore and his motley crew, I’m willing to wager that a lot of you suddenly flashed on a mental image of a polar bear going down for the third time. My question is, who cares if polar bears disappeared once and for all? The truth of the matter is that nobody would really miss the vicious brutes. And, what’s more, baby seals would throw a party.