Saturday, January 16, 2016

"We are all wildlife" - or are we?

Riding the subway over the last few weeks I've been noticing some eye-catching posters from the World Wildlife Federation, like this one:

Other posters feature a man morphing into a tiger and an eye whose lashes become a peacock tail. Plantlife is also included, in the form of a flower with a naked young woman emerging from its petals, and the crosscut of a tree set side by side with the deeply wrinkled visage of an old man.

The message superimposed on the images blares "We are all wildlife" and its purpose, according to its creators, is "bringing awareness to the fundamental relationship humans have with nature and demonstrating that when nature thrives, so do people."

Most admirable, but as I looked at the posters and pondered the message, the thought that kept popping into my mind was "are we really?"

Think about it. Wildlife is naked and self-sufficient. Plop a bear into the woods, a bird into a tree, a fish into an ocean, and it's perfectly happy there. It can live in its environment without any need for extra covering in the form of clothing, without supermarkets, or wheels, or entertainment, or shampoo, soap, and deodorant. It is perfectly fine just the way it is. Plop a modern human being, especially an urban one, naked into a forest, and it will die of starvation or exposure. Its naked skin will freeze or burn, it won't know what to eat, it will need to cover itself, and even if it survives, in very short order it will become unfit for the company of other human beings, dirty, stinky and matted in the absence of bathrooms, toiletries and hairdressers.

We have become so far divorced from nature that we no longer remember how to be wildlife. In parts of the world there are still people who fit into their natural environment, but the vast majority of us might as well be from another planet. And maybe we are. I always found it strange that the sun should burn us and that unlike animals we should need covering against the cold. If we evolved on this planet, and with this planet, why are we so alien to its ways? Why do we need to surround ourselves with extraneous stuff to protect ourselves from the elements?

Douglas Adams, in the Hitchhiker's Guide series, has the superfluous population of a planet called "Golgafrincham" crash-land on prehistoric Earth. They had been tricked into leaving their planet by being told that it was about to be destroyed. This "superfluous" population consists of middle managers, hairdressers (I never understood that one), and phone sanitizers. One of their first acts on Earth is to decree that leaves are money, after which they pretty much denude the trees. Recognize anyone?

Sorry, WWF, we are not wildlife. We are Golgrafrinchans.