This was written by my daughter when she was 13 years old.
Busy Doing Nothing.
“Look at this rubbish”, Dad snorts, squinting at the TV screen. “Save the whales indeed. Why bother? What did they ever give us?”
I have to admit that he has a point. Whales don’t generally feature in my rather mundane lifestyle. Excluding times like now, when my family sits around the television, pouring scorn on the puppy-dog eyed, endangered whales. Judging by the amount of whale calves they show on TV, the whales seem to be managing perfectly well without the aid of our hard earned cash.
The animals sat in a circle, a general feeling of gloom hovering over the small group. The eagle stood up and initiated the meeting.
It’s Saturday, about eight weeks after the frantic panic about the whale population. I’m lounging on the sofa, more focused on the animal programme being shown on TV than my maths homework sat in front of me. Mum’s too engrossed in her ironing to care about either. The stylish but somewhat cheesy female presenter is informing the world about the extinction of whales. I care about this about as much as I care about a sheet of equations. Don’t get me wrong: I’m not a totally heartless teenager, but I fail to see what all the fuss is about. It’s a giant fish, for crying out loud. Hardly the end of the world.
The animals listened intently to the eagle. Their fate was to be decided. One species on earth had to sacrifice themselves to raise the humans’ awareness of their future danger. Looking solemn, the eagle made his announcement. “The whales”, he said.
The world is in a bit of a fluster because of the extinction of the whales. Some people claim that the world will be a better place, others say that humankind has to sort itself out to prevent this from happening again. Then there are people like me, who don’t give a hoot. Most people I speak to seem to fall into the third category. Ecologists in India are getting a bit worried about the sudden decline in the tiger population. I feel the same about this situation as I do about the whales.
The animals gathered again. The eagle addressed the small meeting. “Our plan has not yet succeeded. The humans are still ignorant. Tigers, you must sacrifice yourselves. Perhaps the humans will notice and take action”. The few tigers left in the world nobly agreed to the eagle‘s plan.
The whale thing is old news now. Again, I’m half watching an animal programme, only it’s my geography homework I’m ignoring this time. Almost overnight, the tigers have become extinct. Religious people are panicking, claiming that God is killing off all the living things on the planet as a punishment for our sins. I’d say that the whale meat and tiger skin industries had more to do with it.
The eagle was preparing for another meeting, feeling like a murderer. Things were getting desperate now. He had led two magnificent species of animals to their deaths, but the humans just didn’t care. When would they notice what grave danger they were in? If all the animals died, the humans would follow. Could they realise this before it was too late? How much longer would this slaughtering have to go on for? So many questions, but with so few answers.
When the animals arrived a short time later, the eagle tried to be positive and motivational, putting on a brave face for their sake. “I do not see why we should be helping the humans anyway”, the panda called. “They do nothing for us”. There were a few murmurs of agreement, then an expectant silence. After a moment of hesitation, the eagle puffed out his chest importantly and replied: “The answer, my friend, is simple. We are going to show the humans that by harming us, they place their future in jeopardy. They are more endangered than us! If they realise this, then they will stop harming us to preserve their future.” The eagle sat back, looking at the realisation on the animals’ faces with satisfaction. As a team, they could surely win this battle.
It’s Friday night, and my family and I are nervously watching TV. Things are getting out of hand. Five more species of animal have become extinct in the last four months. The pandas, the chimpanzees, the giant otters, the Brazilian three-toed sloths and the Indian elephants, all extinct. Dad keeps trying to lighten the atmosphere with his corny jokes about endangered animals, but I can’t pretend that I’m not a bit freaked out. It’s big news, but no action is taking place yet. I drag myself away from my rather glum thoughts and focus on the television. The news headline flashes across the screen: “Could this be the beginning of the end?” A scornful chuckle escapes from my lips, in spite of myself. Even mum looks to be struggling to keep a straight face. Purr-lease! The people in the news business are really exaggerating the matter. Just because a few animals have snuffed it, why would that mean that the human race follows?
My 15 year old brother, Jake, shoots me a look that could slice bread. He’s really into all this animal conservation nonsense, and appears to be the only person in the family who finds it even remotely interesting. I prepare myself for one of his famous, “the human race depends on the animals and at this rate we will all die ” speeches, but he just buries himself back in his book. Maybe I’ve finally trained him to understand that WE JUST DON’T CARE.
“They just don’t care!” the eagle burst out passionately, at the start of another meeting. “They are aware of it, yes, but not one single person is taking action.” The jaguar looked thoughtful. “Surely then, if the humans haven’t yet taken action, they must not realise the danger they are in.” All the animals turned to stare at him. Satisfied with the attention he was receiving, the jaguar continued. “If they did, then they would start to help us to preserve their future. Perhaps, and I know it is a risk, we should sacrifice a species that the human race can hardly live without”. A crowd of bees buzzed from the corner of the room. “The humans depend on us. Without us, there is no pollination. Without pollination, there are no plants. Without plants, there will be no food for the humans. We will sacrifice ourselves”.
Who would have possibly thought that such a small animal becoming extinct could cause more disruption than six larger species combined? The bees have become extinct. There was a panic about the rapid decline in the bee population, then the next thing we knew, they had gone. Just like that. It was too sudden for anyone to do anything about the bees, so scientists are trying desperately to create “artificial pollination”. As far as I can make out, it isn’t working so far. I’m almost starting to understand what Jake means about how much we rely on the animals. He is very smug about this, but I’m too worried to be cross with him. If the artificial pollination doesn’t work, there won’t be any plants.
I’m sitting on my bed, staring out of the window, feeling depressed. I remember, from my work on food chains in primary school, that everything starts with plants. So, that means that without plants… “… everything dies”, I whisper to myself. I flop back against my pillow. It’s way too much to take in. Because of a few measly insects dying out, this could be end of the world as we know it.
The eagle didn’t know whether to be satisfied or worried about the results. It was definitely dawning on the humans that they depended on animals, there was no doubt about that. But would the extinction of bees lead to the extinction of the humans? Instead of preventing the death of humankind, had he caused it? Sighing loudly the eagle tried to look on the bright side. At least, for now, the sacrificing could stop.
We are already starting to see the effects of the extinction of bees. There is less and less food in the shops, and America is on the news almost every day as the hardest hit country. We all know that soon, there will be no food left. That’s the worst thing. Just waiting, but knowing what’s going to happen.
It’s not just the food that is limited either. Plant-based medicines have been affected, cotton clothing is in short supply too.
This really could be the beginning of the end.
The eagle skimmed the long grass, searching for food. It was scarce nowadays. The herbivores were suffering and dying due to the lack of plants, which meant that their predators had no food either. It was a very vicious circle, very vicious indeed. He flew back to his nest, mission unsuccessful. Briefly, he considered calling another meeting, but what use would it be? He couldn’t pretend anymore. He couldn’t put a brave face on anymore. They would all soon meet their end, and it was his fault.
It’s August now. Five years and four months since the bees became extinct. Five years and four months since the beginning of the end. Now, we are heading towards the end of the end. The artificial pollination was a total failure, and the food has almost run out. People are getting mugged and robbed around here, and it’s the same all around the world. Wars have broken out over food, and the population is rapidly plummeting. There’s no school, and less and less people are going to work.
Jake was murdered three weeks ago, while he was searching for food. I wish, with all my heart, that we had listened to him all those years ago. If we had cared just a little bit more about the animals, and their environment we could have stopped this. I could be happy, waiting to go back to university. Jake could still be here.
I’m crying now, just thinking about how different this could have been. I don’t want to die at nineteen. I don’t want to think, at every meal, that this could be my last. I want to go back, to rewind five years, when everything was good and happy.
Looking back now, to when the extinctions first started, it’s as if the animals were trying to warn us. While we were busy doing nothing, they were trying to show us that, by endangering them, we endangered ourselves.
If only we had listened to them.