Why We Don’t Own This Planet

I remember reading an excerpt from My Family and Other Animals, probably as a fourteen year old (I eventually read the complete work last year), and wondering how fascinating it would be to spend one’s life with countless interesting animals around. My Family and Other Animals is a witty and humorous autobiographical account of the India-born British naturalist Gerald Durrell’s early childhood years on the Greek island of Corfu. Durrell later went on to establish the Jersey Wildlife Preservation Trust which, after his death, was renamed the Durrell Wildlife Conservation Trust and continues to function to this date.

Over the last hundred years, both governmental and non-governmental organisations over the world have taken the task of conservation quite seriously. However, with the growing number of human-wildlife conflicts, there has also been an evident increase in extreme human-centric sentiments across communities. This in turn has hugely impacted the decisions of the policy-making bodies and we have ended up in a situation where a large fraction of these decisions adopt an utterly unscientific viewpoint of human supremacy over other species. This probably arises from the fact that deep inside we still consider non-human animals not “beings” enough. Deep within our prejudiced minds, we think we own this planet; we make the decisions, because only we can; because only we have a sense of fairness and morality.

You must watch this incredible TED talk by Dr. Frans de Waal (if you haven’t already). The talk will surely make you chuckle on occasions more than one; but probably the most important of its messages is to understand and acknowledge that humans are not unique in having notions of empathy, morality and compassion. And yes, we do not own this planet; we just share it with thousands of other species, each of which is unique, different…and important.

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