Going Extinct

Going Extinct

Tracy&James | Thursday, 9 August 2018

Something that Paul wrote in a FP a while back has stuck with me; it was along the lines of “the fishing now is as good as it’s ever going to be”. I took this to mean that it’s all downhill from here, things will only ever get worse, and the pessimist in me tends to agree.

According to many researchers, over 99% of all the plant and animal species that have ever lived on Earth have gone extinct. This is perhaps not too surprising given the ~3.8 billion year history of life on earth, although for much of that time this consisted of simple single cell organisms (the primordial soup), with more complex lifeforms only evolving a mere 600 million years ago (if you’re religious please ignore this and replace with a creationist story where 6000 years ago your god farted out the universe containing this planet, complete with a fossil record as a bit of a jape to test you).

From the fossil records, palaeontologists have determined that there have been at least 5 mass extinction events, periods where the rate of species extinction is significantly higher than the normal background figure.  The most well-known of these was the last one, the K-T boundary event about 65 million years ago, when a large asteroid impacted into the Gulf of Mexico, leading to the extinction of the dinosaurs.  Even with such a cataclysmic event the resulting die-off took many thousands of years to complete and herein lies a problem for humankind.

I think the consensus of opinion is that the current species extinction rate is very high, somewhere between 1000 and 10,000 times the normal background level (although I did find a reference to it only being a factor of 50 up).  The predominant causes of this increase is habitat loss, due to land being claimed for farming etc., over exploitation (commercial fishing etc.) and climate change (all of the previous mass extinctions resulted from either a sudden heating or cooling of the atmosphere).  Whether we are witnessing the 6th mass extinction event is open to debate, what is fairly certain though is, if we are, things will be very bad for future generations.

I believe this is where psychology plays a part; it’s very hard to imagine making the world a better place for people who aren’t even born yet, it’s also difficult to recognise trends that take longer than a typical human lifespan to amount to a perceptible difference.  Sure, people want to improve things for themselves, their offspring and their grandchildren, but it’s difficult to make sacrifices now for people who will only exist well after your death.  The kind of sacrifices required are to live sustainably and to limit human population growth.  In my relatively short time on this planet the population has doubled, so clearly humankind doesn’t care for this philosophy.

Unfortunately population control is absolutely the last thing that the political classes want, because population growth feeds economic growth, and to question the need for economic growth is tantamount to heresy in the western world.  However we should question it.  The stock answer seems to be that growth lifts people out of poverty so they can enjoy the comforts that you and I do now.  However the statistics I’ve found don’t support this.  For example in the USA there has been massive economic growth since the 1970’s (when I was born), ignoring the odd blip now and then, yet the statistics for people living in poverty there is essentially flat.  So why is this?  A quick look at what portion of the population controls what proportion of the money may give a hint at the answer.  And we all know that those with money are more likely to run for political office; did you know that 80% of British MPs are millionaires?

So what does this mean on a fishing blog?  I’d say get out there and enjoy yourselves now.  That salmon, if you’re lucky enough to catch one, may well be your last.  That fine grayling river flowing through intensively farmed land is one major pollution incident from being dead.  That bonefish flat is one hurricane away from being stripped to bare rock, and those tuna shoals that some chase will be fished out etc.  There will always be fly casting though. 

I was going to write about how my carp flies are better than the shop bought ones but I’m too depressed now – maybe next week Frown

Have a great weekend,