Wednesday, November 2, 2005

A struggle that need not be..

Another one of my blogs - taken from the AlwaysOn postings of a few years back. A must see movie for everyone The March of the Penguins rekindles a profound introspection of our role in nature

Yesterday, my family got together to watch the March of the Penguins. My 9 year old daughter had been recommending this movie for a long time and finally, she managed to ambush our schedules to make this happen. It’s a poignant movie about the Emperor Penguins and their fight for survival against great odds to mate, breed and raise their new hatchlings.

For those of you who have not seen this movie, it is about the 70 mile march that the Emperor Penguins have to make between their breeding place and their feeding place. They go thru this march about 3 to 4 times during a period of 5 months and it is agonizingly painful and hazardous for the entire penguin family. They have to do this, because, the breeding places need to be far from where their predators live – which also happens to be the Emperor Penguins’ feeding place. More importantly, they need to breed and raise their chicks on significantly thicker ice shelves, which would not give way during 9 months of the breeding and rearing season. The depressing part about this movie is that the life and death issues faced by these Emperor Penguins are issues that have already been overcome by us, the humans, using modern technology. And yet, we stand there watching in awe and pity while these poor creatures have to suffer thru this harrowing period, just to procreate and advance life. For the most part of the breeding, the Penguins have to protect the egg initially and the chick later, from the freezing cold by nesting it between the top of their feet and the bottom of their belly for 4 months. They huddle and shuffle in this extremely delicate position, thru biting blizzards with 100 mph winds and temperatures well below freezing, fully aware that one small slip would put all the hard work and the big march itself, to waste. Add starvation for 4 months and the misery is complete.

Just as an example, here are two issues that the Emperor Penguins have to face that we as humans have overcome with technology:
1. It no longer takes us or our pets, 7 days and nights to travel 70 miles.
2. From conception to delivery, our own babies and their mothers are continually protected from natural calamities, artificially if required, using modern techniques and appliances.

I think it is about time that we took an active role in helping these and other co-habitants on planet earth with our advanced technology, in overcoming specific crisis situations. In this specific instance, while we are already there producing the movie, how about providing the parent penguins with better shelters during the incubation and hatching periods, that would better their chances of survival from 60% to 95% or better.
We have already influenced the weather patterns by releasing tons of chemicals into the atmosphere that could possibly destroy their breeding grounds forever, by thinning the ice shelves considerably. We have impacted the livelihood of many other species by our deforestation and reforestation, by oil drills and oil slicks, by our dams and our canals, with our nuclear tests and smoking chimneys, from our zoos and domesticated pets to pesticides and fertilizers, from the antibiotics to the heart-lung machine and the list goes on. So let’s not kid ourselves by thinking that we are not altering nature or the habitats of other organisms on the planet. Why not try to find a balance between the extremes of being good Samaritans and nature police. Look at what we do when faced with natural disasters, ourselves. Take New Orleans, for instance. Everyone knows that it does not make any sense in rebuilding it after the Katrina flooded the city – but yet we don’t think twice about spending billions of dollars reconstructing a city which is guaranteed to be evacuated every other hurricane season and carries 10% risk of getting flooded again by another major storm.

When science led us to cloning, we had already crossed the line between being humans and playing god. Then let’s stop pretending that we are not and instead use that power to better the lives of other species that share this planet with us. When they start to threaten our own existence we could get rid of them, the same way we respond when threatened by our own species, anyway. And instead of treating every good Samaritan act as interference, lets see them as another man made accident, like say, an oil slick caused by an oil tanker near their feeding grounds that will kill them and the fish that they feed on. Oh! but that’s not interference, is it? It’s just another accident while going about our business, as usual. When we rarely have second thoughts at clearing out the flora and fauna for our conveniences why deliberate so much when it comes to saving them?