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MODULE 17: ANTHROPOCENE ERA A LEARNING TOOL ABOUT WHALES, INTERCONNECTED SPECIES & ORGANISMS, CLIMATE CHANGE AND HUMANITY - A CAPE BRETON UNIVERSITY SENIOR SEMINAR COMMUNITY ACTION PROJECT

“If only we can overcome cruelty, to human and animal, with love and compassion we shall stand at the threshold of a new era in human moral and spiritual evolution - and realize, at last, our most unique quality: humanity.” Jane Goodall

Anthropocene

Humans are at a critical stage of survival on this planet. As a result of ignoring the warning signs, including climate change, species extinction, pollution, caused by human inference with all the planet’s ecosystems, humanity has come to a critical mass of real extinction. We have come to a stage where the free assistance of species in ecosystems has no value to humanity; however, all species, especially whales, provide a highly valuable resource we can no longer ignore. The impact of humanity must work toward a new goal, that which we have not been accustomed to, that of helping the species that help us survive. We must stand up for each other in a way that defies the past by going forward into the future by not just appreciating life on this planet, but instead change our habits to protecting it, all of it, from large whales to tiny microscopic organisms.

Earth’s sixth mass extinction”, resulting from the loss of many ecosystem functions humans depend on, coupled with the growing human population, are all well recorded in the stress, “near collapse, or total collapse” of many of the world’s natural resources including extensive loss of habitat (Boumans et al, 2015).

The present state of the planet has challenged scientists and decision-makers to reassess how we comprehend the “structure, organization, and functional capacity of our systems” creating the emergence for a new concept for understanding the world (Boumans et al, 2015).

Instead of engaging the idea that the natural and human systems are separate, there is instead an acknowledgment that each subsystem is embedded within the other (Boumans et al, 2015).

(credit: Maria Lisa Polegatto)

The Anthropocene era, the current geological age that takes note of the impact of human activity, is the result of destructive colonialist projects and the combination of the Industrial Revolution with the worldview of free enterprise that views nature as a resource to be exploited (TallBear, 2011).

Western sciences, including that of social sciences and indigenous knowledge, are viewing an ethnography of multi species suggesting nonhumans, including animals, plants, fungi and microbes, instead of having interactions with humans and being thought of as killable, are now viewed of as being on the same level as humans in our biosphere with lives that have both biography and political aspects that further have a force in our:

  • political,
  • economic,
  • cultural (TallBear, 2011) and
  • social relationships (Todd et al, 2014).

The relationship between humans and animals is based on the capacity of similarity for suffering with animals being able to be seen by humans as a distinct individual that humans can look in the eyes and have an animal stare right back at a human (Zhu et al, 2019).

“Animals are ambassadors of a different, freer world”, however, many people cannot identify wild species anymore falling into a loss of knowledge and connectedness of our nature surroundings, known as “nature deficit disorder” (Pschera et al, 2016).

As society becomes higher tech, we need more nature in our lives, not less of it (Pschera et al, 2016).

  • In 23 million years humans have destroyed 10 to 20% of animal species on earth (Pschera et al, 2016).
  • In the next 30 years we could destroy another 20% of species, including reptiles, birds and mammals, given the speed humans are now moving with half the species on Earth now facing extinction (Pschera et al, 2016).

Human activities have reduced “untold millions of large fishes, sharks, sea turtles and manatees” from the Caribbean from the 17th to 19th centuries which attributes to recent collapses of reef corals and seagrass beds as much as climate change (Moss, 2017).

Cetaceans are not just important to marine ecosystems, they can also be indicators of the health of both the oceans and humans with both humans and cetaceans eating similar food sources (Zhu et al, 2019).

Sadly, humans have greatly reduced the impact of great whales such as baleen and sperm whales, that recycle nutrients in the coastal ocean (Roman et al, 2016) even though whales assist in reversing damage caused by the warming of the planet (The second largest whale in the world slows the build-up of CO2 in the sea, 2019).

Humans need more understanding of the interconnectedness of humans, nonhumans and ecosystems instead of viewing discussions as human conflict (Brugidou & Fabien, 2018).

Instead of humans being focused on themselves, we need to focus on the world around us or perish with the species we have obliterated (Brugidou & Fabien, 2018).

While humans often think of whales an animals without value, Nicklen (2019) suggests otherwise. After calculation of the economic value of great whales in relation to carbon sequestering, each of these giants is worth two million dollars and globally these giants collectively are an asset worth one trillion dollars to humanity (Nicklen, 2019).

The restoration of whales, along with interconnected species, such as large animals like elephants, who can sequester billions of tons of carbon, can benefit everyone (Nicklen, 2019).

Such benefits can provide a profound effect on climate change mitigation with humans needing to heed the warning of looming extinction and step up to their role in the circle of life to make positive contributions to the ocean-air-land ecosystems. By diving deep into the ocean ecosystem, humanity can take sustainable actions to protect, persevere and ensure the survival of species and organisms, from large animals to microscopic organisms, and humanity with the help of the gentle giants of the ocean.

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Created By
Maria Lisa Polegatto
Appreciate

Credits:

Created with images by Aleksandra Boguslawska - "Wooden path to the beach" • Aleksandra Boguslawska - "Wooden path to the beach" • Mendar Bouchali - "untitled image" • NOAA - "Sperm whale flukes" • Todd Cravens - "untitled image"