It’s #WildlifeWednesday. Today, though, I’m not going to talk about a specific animal. Instead, I’m going to contemplate the future for wildlife and the environment now that the election is over.
It’s no secret that Donald Trump is to be our next president, backed by a Republican-led house and senate. During this election, much has been said about immigration, sexual assault, criminal behaviour, race, creed, sexuality, abortion, and so on. I was concerned to see climate change and the environment not getting a very big nod in the debates. Neither side addressed these issues in any meaningful way during their platforms, but it seems that climate change is a fallacy to many republicans. Conserving our ever dwindling natural resources doesn’t appear to be high on their priority list. On the more conservative side, they fail to admit that humans play any part in the current woes befalling the environment. In some cases it goes as far as sheer blanket denial that there is any problem whatsoever. This is quite something, given the republican party under Theodore Roosevelt drove the conservation movement. “After becoming president in 1901, Roosevelt used his authority to protect wildlife and public lands by creating the United States Forest Service (USFS) and establishing 150 national forests, 51 federal bird reserves, 4 national game preserves, 5 national parks, and 18 national monuments by enabling the 1906 American Antiquities Act. During his presidency,Theodore Roosevelt protected approximately 230 million acres of public land.”*
These days, we think of the conservative republican party as the party of endless money, big business, and extreme Christian values. Some of them, or those they are related to, have even bragged about sport killing of endangered species, posting pictures on social media of themselves standing over dead animals such as elephants and lions. This in a time when people are crying out for governments to stand up and take notice to do something about these senseless atrocities against our animal friends. The killing of Cecil the Lion caused a ripple of outrage across the world, while the ivory trade continues to be a hot point around the globe. If this modern breed of conservative is now in charge, with no buffer from their more liberal counterparts, what hope is there for the future of our environment and wildlife?
The Oregon Zoo’s motto is a better future for wildlife, but what if this now needs to change to read the only future for wildlife? So many species are on the precipice, and without support of powerful entities who actually believe in climate change and habitat destruction, what hope is there of pulling them back from the cliff edge? Each species plays a vital role in the ecosystem. For example, polar bears need the ice sheets to catch seals. When they are done eating the rich fatty blubber from the seals, what is left behind feeds other creatures like the artic fox. Without the polar bears to catch the seals, food for the foxes would be scarce, and they would dwindle in population as well. Everything is intertwined.
When drilling for oil in the arctic, despite having plenty of non-oil based energy sources to draw from, becomes more important than saving the melting ice caps, where do we turn? When sport hunting of species with dwindling numbers is celebrated with no recourse for the criminals killing these poor creatures, what can be done?
In short – I don’t know. It’s still early days. The election was only yesterday, and as we learned from Brexit, it will take some time to get to grips with the fall out and realities of our new world order. As with any minority group that will likely be affected by this new world order, the environment and its wildlife will also need our help and our voices. We may not be able to do much over the next four years, but we can take small steps to try and ease the burden, in the hopes that maybe in four years there will be something left to build from.
Keep fighting. Keep recycling, visiting the zoo (they donate a percentage of every ticket to conservation projects, and have active species survival plans), try to reduce your own emissions where you can, remember to shut off lights behind you, avoid products from companies who don’t use sustainable palm oil, volunteer if you have time. If you feel comfortable, do some research and use your voice to write your senator or representative and let them know you are worried about climate change. Sign petitions when you see them. If you have a spare $5, donate it to an endangered animal of your choice. Little things done by many people will make a difference, even if we can’t stop the big things from happening.
A list of handy sites which you might find useful information on:
Sustainable Palm Oil: http://www.orangutans-sos.org/orangutans/crisis?gclid=CNm6rNidndACFQgpaQodKKkEBQ
World Wildlife Fund: http://www.worldwildlife.org/
Polar Bears International: http://www.polarbearsinternational.org/
Environmental Protection Agency: https://www3.epa.gov/
Department of Fish and Wildlife: https://www.fws.gov/
Oregon Zoo: http://www.oregonzoo.org/
IUCN Red List of Endangered Species: http://www.iucnredlist.org/
This list is by no means exhaustive. Google can point you toward many more, but I hope this will be a jumping off point to get you started.
I am an archaeologist, Oregon Zoo Guide, and wildlife biology student. Much of my time is spent at the zoo with the bears, or out on the nature trails of the Columbia Gorge.