I’ve spent a lot of time recently, a lot of time, reading David Quammen’s Song of the Dodo, which is a game changing book, at least for me. The gross despoiliation of the Earth by our practices of an easy life is not something I’ve missed, and not something that can be reasonably denied, in whatever shape it is proposed.
But aside from the occasional self-congratulatory gesture of solidarity with the knackered natural world I can’t say I’ve done much. It is only partly out of ambivalence, I’ve got a lot of time for the men who cut down trees for living even if I’d rather they didn’t. I remember thinking as a little bloke that it was a bit tough on the men who clubbed baby seals to blame them for the fact other richer men paid a lot for dead baby seals. It still is.
There’s less equivocation nowadays, I am conscientious in my avoidance of dubious forest products and equally anything to do with dead baby seals. Indeed right across the fabric of my easy suburban existence I try to make the least ecologicallly harmful choice as possible. I’ve often suspected though, and I do more than suspect now, that it makes no difference to the continued existence or non-existence of species, habitats, wonderful things, and all else that the natural world harbours. None at all.
Quammen asks the question, is it too late to save everything?’ He valiantly and splendidly tries to find an answer but by the end all he has is another question: is it too late to save anything? And considering that he published the book in 1996 you’ve got to reckon if it was almost too late then, it’s got to be all over now.
But it might not be, I guess. The turning away from hope also turns us away from responsibility, and if you know a responsibility is yours, can you really just shrug and let it go?