“You might not see the effects of climate change – but your grandchildren will!” It’s a lesson I’ve had drilled into my subconscious in every environmental class I’ve taken. “Make a difference, Mandy. Do it for future generations. Do it for mankind.”
But what about doing it for more than just our own sakes? If the studies pan out and the average temperature rises upwards of four degrees over the next hundred years, it’s not mankind that’s going to be affected first; we’re a versatile species, well adapted to everything from the Sahara’s heat to the Arctic’s chill…no, the first to go will be the animals.
It’s not that four degrees difference will make for that drastic of a change. The Earth and earlier generations of beasts have underwent larger changes in temperature and lived to tell the tale. The problem is the speed.
Many land animals aren’t going to be able to evolve quickly enough to match the rising temperatures. It all comes down to the timing. There won’t be enough time for species to change their morphologies and evolve. Their generations are too close together. The changes are too drastic. There simply isn’t enough time.
So maybe, rather than picking a few favorites to cling to and attempt to protect from the inevitable, we choose a different approach.
When it comes to endangered species and especially charismatic megafauna (aka those cute and cuddly mammals), we seem to have a soft spot. Why not make that work for us? What if rather than sporting ‘Save Our Pandas’ t-shirts, we fight the good fight against climate change? Right now, we keep treating the symptoms rather than the disease. I’m not saying I have the answers, I’m just saying we’re asking ourselves the wrong questions. And we’d better start asking ourselves the right ones, and quick…before we, or some helpless creature, run out of time.