Saturday, February 10, 2007

From the mouths of babes

My son Samuel (just shy of 4) has always had a fascination with the epic depiction of life revealed by the creative genius of the blue planet. From an early age he has sat and watched Mr Attenborough wax lyrical about everything from blue whales to plangton - and loved every second - so for christmas he got the next chapter - Planet Earth

The makers of The Blue Planet present the epic story of life on Earth. Five years in production, over 2000 days in the field, using 40 cameramen filming across 200 locations, this is the ultimate portrait of our planet. A stunning television experience that combines rare action, unimaginable scale, impossible locations and intimate moments with our planet's best-loved, wildest and most elusive creatures. From the highest mountains to the deepest rivers, this series takes you on an unforgettable journey through the challenging seasons and the daily struggle for survival in Earth's most extreme habitats.

Where am I going with this? Well, the other day I read an article stating that there are just a few thousand tigers left, only seven hundred mountain gorillas and just one hundred Iberian lynx. Now Samuel loves animals and I mean LOVES them and was interested in the article I was reading. When I told him that if attitudes and systems didn't change then some of these animals may not exist when he was my age. He said nothing (which is unusual) just stared off into his imagination I guess.

Later that night whilst watching the afore mentioned planet earth he broke the silence by announcing that 'it was very good that he had this dvd because when I am your age daddy some of these animals may not exist'....then he looked straight at me and said, 'but I would rather them be alive than just on my television, that would be better wouldn't it daddy?'

.....yes, i said, it would

There are twice as many privately owned tigers in America as there are in the wild across the world. Maybe 3,000 to 4,500 Bengal tigers, 1,500 Indo-Chinese tigers and 500 Sumatran tigers and there may be 20-30 Souh China tigers left - if they aren't extinct already. In the past 150 years, 93% of tigers' original habitat has been lost; in the last 100 years the world's tiger population has declined by 95%.

There are thought to be around 30,000 orang-utans in the wild in Borneo and Sumatra; they tend to inhabit lowland forest, in fertile land coveted by farmers. Their habitats are fast disappearing as Indonesia expands its palm oil production (Palm oil is the second largest oil crop after soy)....I don't need to explain what will happen to the orang-utan if this continues

It seems a crime that the leatherback turtles, having been around for 150 million years (outliving dinosauurs and asteroid impacts) should decline 95% in just 20 years because of our fishing practice - longline fishing use a kind of hook (thousands of them) where turtles become trapped - evidently switching to a different type of hook would drastically reduce turtle by-catch

Ellen MacArthur last month said the albatross was "the most amazing bird i've been lucky enough to see" Well, 19 out of 21 species of these iconic birds are threatened with extinction - seems longline fishing does as much damage above the water as it does below

Cod is not the most attractive of fish, but we will miss it (particularly in Britain - fish and chip shops big business is cod and chips) when it's gone, and it's population rapidly decreasing. If we carry on fishing at the rate we do cod will be off our menus in less than 15 years.

Only 100 are left in the wild. The world's most endangered cat lives not in Africa, nor Asia but in Western Europe! If it becomes extinct it will be the first big cat the world has lost since the sabre-toothed tiger 10,000 years ago....

In the forests around Africa's Great Lakes (Rwanda, Uganda and the DRC) there are around 700 mountain gorillas left - poaching and habitat is an ongoing problem

There are only 100 Western Pacific grey whales left in our oceans - and only 2 dozen or so females of breeding age

They used to roam in colonies from Lebanon all the way to France, but now the Mediterranean monk seal survive in two main colonies - only between 300-500 have survived. Fishing again seems to be a problem

Sea ice is shrinking at a rate of 10% a year - in 30 years the arctic could have no ice at all during the summer. Polar bears live on this ice and drift for miles hunting - they have recently been seen swimming in 60 miles of open sea - at this rate by 2040 the ice back will have dropped back significantly enough to see a huge decline in the biggest of bears

I am no expert but could I suggest that we are not being good stewards of this precious gift called earth - I find it ironic that multinationals such as Nestle (again!) are part responsible for the decline of tigers (they buy coffee beans from illegal plantations which the tigers used to inhabit) - Shell and Gazpron whose gas and oil platform development is a threat to sea life. Not to mention that man in the White House who refuses to sign the kyoto agreement because there is no proof that global warming and gas emissions are connected - well last time i looked there was no proof that the Almighty exists either, but evidently he still believes in Him......sobering isn't it. I hope all these remarkable creatures are still around for our children and children's children to enjoy


Anna said...

Hey Paul,

I also have a Sam. My kids love the watch Blue Planet and Planet Earth. We have been loving the marathons that have been playing.

Really great post.

Niki said...

My sister Emily, who's 7 now - wow. Used to be so inquisitive about the rainforest and she had pictures of it all over her walls; all I ever got were questions as she tried to read my geography coursework.
Now it seems she's grown up; she wants to know about make-up and nintendo or something... This, I fear, is where things start to go wrong. Who ever heard of an apathetic 7 year old 100 years ago?

Rainbow dreams said...

I hope all these creatures are around for future generations to enjoy - Mr Attenborough has certainly played a huge part in bringing them, in all their wonderful colour and beauty, to our living rooms and making them real - it's far harder to ignore something when it is made real to us.

There is also a link between making it real and making it relevant to us, and to our kids - not everyone would be reading articles like you were and sharing them with their children.
I do think more people are more aware ...and it is talked about in schools too which I don't recall from my school days.

It seems even more senseless when perhaps even quite simple changes could be the difference between life and death for some of these creatures, though I guess it might be more complicated than it appears.
Thanks for posting this and generating conversation here too :)

Awareness said...

Pretty darn sobering isn't it? I'm not familiar with the programs, though my son especially loves the "Discovery Channel." He also receives the Children's National Geographic mag every month which churns up his interest.

I find that more often than not, the books that have come home from the school library are non-fiction and environmentally related, which is terrific. As much as I encourage them to read fiction, their knowledge of our planet needs to stem from their initial interests and the feeding of them.

My daughter, Martha whose 13 has a passion for Pandas......many projects and speeches and readings have been prompted by her interest in them. Lately, one of her "projects" at school was to write a piece on someone she considers a "hero." She picked Jane Goodall.....a big door opened in her learning as she researched Goodall's work.

Maxwell.....whose a nosy curious 9 year old is obsessed with Manatees ever since he saw one in Florida. Do you know how difficult it is to find a stuffed toy Manatee in Canada?? :)

There is a very small zoo close to where I live. There's a section set aside as a walking trail and along the trail are markers/small monuments identifying various creatures and animals who have become extinct. It was a powerful little walk we took there a couple of years back. To this day, it continues to generate discussion on the need to change our ways.

sorry i'm so verbose....... i never mean to be.......

The Harbour of Ourselves said...

thank you, i never tire of them - they are so beautifully shot and so so informative - great for home-schooling I bet

you are sadly so right - how is it children used to be happy running around with a big wheel-like ring and a stick - it's a tall order to stop the wide spreading apathy, though we must try

i like your point about things being hard to ignore when they are made real - but even more important is how it is made relevant

that's the hard bit i guess. simple changes do, as you are well aware, make huge differences for people (fair-trade) and to creatures too - i certainly hope all our children get to see all these beautiful gifts and more in their futures

we get discovery here on cable (not that I have it) - and the ones i have seen i have enjoyed - it is sobering isn't it - i watched a bit with him (samuel) again yesterday and mr attenborough was explaining how the there is only about 100 snow leopards in russia now - that's bloody scary - what the hell have we done?!

sounds like martha is heading in the right direction to me - a young eco-warrior!

....oh, and no, i have no clue as to how difficult it is to find a stuffed toy Manatee in Canada - though i bet it's easier than finding one in guernsey

Anna said...

The episodes are great when I need a break to switch laundry or take my pic of the day... :) The kids just are in a trance with them!

Did you get a chance to listen to Grace Like Rain?

The Harbour of Ourselves said...

anna, no i ordered it - have probs with itunes for some reason

will let you know when it arrives...took a great shot today - will post it tonight of tomorrow

ps, better a trance with mr attenborough than play station 2 etc

Julie said...

Stomach turning statistics. I need to get this series for my 8 year old, who said at dinner the other night, "I'm sick of people destroying the coyotes habitats." That's an issue where we live now. Too much building, etc.

Thanks for the post!

MJ said...

You know, I was reading an article the other day on processed meat and how and why it causes cancer...what you said about Neslte reminded me. It just seems like most of the ills of the world can be traced to sloth and greed, which is truly widespread.

The Harbour of Ourselves said...

julie and mj

thanks for your dialogue - julie, get the blue planet and planet earth, they are probably the most remarkable pieces of film put together. attenborough's voice dovetailed with the stunning photography is breathtaking - mj, it sickens me that the system allows so much destruction - i wonder how long we have left...

MJ said...

me too.

James said...

Really seems like we are living in a decisive time - may God help us to be responsible for the times he has entrusted to us