In his book The Once and Future World, J.B. MacKinnon says that nature was once much different than it is now. He says that the species that still exist, are but a shadow of what they once were.
MacKinnon cites records from recent centuries that hint at what has been lost. The quote below is from a New York Times article about the fact that the worlds insects have very recently died off in huge numbers.
“In the North Atlantic, a school of cod stalls a tall ship in midocean; off Sydney, Australia, a ship’s captain sails from noon until sunset through pods of sperm whales as far as the eye can see….Pacific pioneers complain to the authorities that splashing salmon threaten to swamp their canoes.” There were reports of lions in the south of France, walruses at the mouth of the Thames, flocks of birds that took three days to fly overhead, as many as 100 blue whales in the Southern Ocean for every one that’s there now. “These are not sights from some ancient age of fire and ice,” MacKinnon writes. “We are talking about things seen by human eyes, recalled in human memory.”
MacKinnon says that each generation forgets what nature is really like. Each generation remembers nature as it was in his childhood, and this becomes his memory of what pristine nature always was. Each generation remembers his own pristine nature anew and before long we have no idea what untrammeled nature was once really like. With each generation we get further and further of the memory of what nature was once. Scientists call this phenomenon shifting baseline syndrome. None of us remember the actual pristine natural world as it once was.
And so we all think that the world we live in now is just fine, when actually it is far from fine. It is not fine because species are daily dying by the dozens and even by the hundreds many scientists say. And this is a huge problem. When enough species die out forever, ecosystems begin to crash. And when that happens for long enough, the human species which evolved to survive in a very narrow and specific ecosystem, will also begin to crash. In actuality, the world of living things which we think is just fine, is on its deathbed. And just maybe, we can still do something about this, but not for much longer will this window be open.
The image at the top of this page is of Wildflowers in
Glacier National Park, Montana.
J.B. MacKinnon’s book The Once and Future World, is a beautiful and easily read book. You might want to give it a try. The book’s subtile is “Naure as it was, as it is, as it could be.