Kakapo, the flightless parrot indigenous to New Zealand, for which I have no little affection (see The story so far) would probably have made a far more suitable and appropriate animal emblem for the World Wildlife Fund than the undeniably cute Panda.
The Panda’s very cuteness causes, in and of itself, a perception problem because it feeds directly into Disney-induced sentimentality (Newsflash: No animals died in Bambi. None. Zero. Some cartoons were, though, erased) which infects much human thinking. Cuteness, while a great device to divert small children, also diverts attention away from a real problem: species extinction.
Established in 1961, the WWF set itself a tough task:”Our mission is to stop the degradation of our planet’s natural environment, and build a future in which people live in harmony with nature.
“It’s a hell of a mission, and it requires the top of the food chain (that’s thee and me) to pause, probably stop, what we’re doing to reflect on the consequences of our actions and project our thinking forward a few decades.
These consequences have been clearly and graphically outlined by all independent environmental science and scientists. Independent in this case means those not in the pockets of the Agri and Oil conglomerates.
In a report published in 2018, the WWF states that humanity has wiped out 60% of mammals, birds, fish and reptiles since 1970. Over half.
The report’s conclusion is that increasing human consumption of food and resources is destroying the web of life (a real thing as opposed to the whizzing electrons which we call the web). The creation of the web of life, in which nature has invested billions of years, is the inter-connection between each living creature and plant.
We should be very clear that the removal of so many links is unlikely to be compensated for by AI or anything ‘smart’ from Silicon Valley. Amazon, Uber, Google and Deliveroo are excellent at generating revenue. None knows how to save the planet from themselves or us.
Has the WWF failed in its mission? The evidence indicates, rather sadly, that it has and I blame the Panda device.
Because of it, children the world over, and their parents, have been seduced into believing that because governments swop Pandas between zoos, in which some of the beasts breed, the Panda is relatively safe (not in its natural habitat, of course) and therefore so are other animals which can metaphorically shelter behind its cute bulk.
WWF’s mission has lost its way partly because of weak and misguided communication. And it would be well-served to up the urgency of its message by a quantum leap (aka an abrupt and extreme change). If asked I would advise the folk there to ditch the bear and replace it with something less cute and more worrying for our future.
Perhaps the Potoo Bird would neatly fit the bill.
The species dates back over 40 million years, is comical in appearance and is not yet endangered. Give us time though.
As we burn the Amazon and other rain forests into ash so that we can farm more and more cattle, the Potoo, will join Madagascar Lemurs, Leopards, Sumatran Elephants, Tigers and myriads of other species on the list of ‘soon to disappear for ever’ animals.
There is another, sublime, reason why the Potoo bird is so appropriate.
Combine the worthy environmental statements, and enduring lack of action, made by the political and commercial leaders who flock to Davos and similar forums every year, who go on and on and on about what they will do to help preserve the planet and its inhabitants and yet do nothing of consequence. And now ask yourself this: is what they have to say about climate change, and its effects on wildlife and our lives, mostly poo-too?