Wednesday, May 19, 2004

Dodo birds!

Here's a history lesson:

The Dodo was a flightless bird on the island of Mauritius. Portuguese and later Dutch sailors hunted the Dodo to extinction as it was an easy source of protein for sailors who had been long from port. The last Dodo was killed in 1681. Now the species is extinct.

I have been thinking about this because I was reading about a tree on Mauritius. Of this species, 13 remain, and they are all about three hundred years old. 300 years also happens to be the expected lifespan of this tree.

Often, a tree will drop fruit that is attractive to a certain animal, and by eating this fruit, passing it through its digestive tract, it allows the seeds in the fruit to germinate and start the journey of growing into a new tree. No modern animal is eating the fruit of these ancient trees on Mauritius!

Is it coincidence that the last of these trees happen to be the same age as the disappearance of the Dodo and that no new trees of this species has sprung up? Probably not.

It looks as though with the destruction of one species, we have unwittingly caused the death of another.

Of course, my point on this is clear. As we stumble through this world, using life and resources as quickly and cheaply as possible for our own profit, we do damage that will last and extend for generations to come.

What kind of ancestors are we, ourselves, being for the seventh generation that will proceed us? Will they praise us, or curse us?

Many people feel that we will not last as a species for another seven generations, but I feel it is important to have hope.

And so, here we are as a society demanding things from our leaders. Lower taxes! Better gas prices! Less interference! Good roads! Faster, more comprehensive Health Care...etc, etc...

We become angry at our elected leaders for their failures, not stopping to consider our own culpability in this world. And we should be angry...but we should also be willing to take responsibility. Our excuses are that we do not have enough time, or we don't know all the issues. Is this enough? To our great-grandchildren do we cry, "Mea Culpa! Mea Culpa! What could I have done, anyway?"

Humanity must find a way to live without soiling our own homes. We would not allow refuse to build up, noxious smells to persist, fires to burn in the houses in which we live. Why do we do it to our planet?

Of course, one cannot eat an elephant in one bite. But we have to start somewhere.**

It has been found that turkey gullets are close enough to what we think the Dodo might have possessed in order to process the seeds of these 13 trees that remain. These trees, now called the Dodo Tree, have new saplings beginning to grow because of human concern and ingenuity. Will these trees, in turn, be able to produce seeds of their own? Will the Dodo tree survive where the Dodo did not?

There is always hope.

**I do not actually recommend eating an elephant.

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