Dust To Dust
December 2010: These Asian elephants Elephas maximus, seen kicking up so much dust in Corbett, were a mere possibility on the evolutionary horizon when the dinosaurs died out. Fossil evidence suggests that their pig-sized ancestors, Moeritherium, probably lived a near-total aquatic existence with habits much closer to the hippopotamuses of today than the gigantic land mammals we have come to know and love. In fact their closest living relatives are manatees and dugongs that live in the sea and, amazingly, a small vegetarian mammal called the hyrax (Hyracoidea) that weighs under five kilogrammes and shares the African elephant’s habitat.
The Proboscidea saga eventually saw the long-nosed creatures colonise every continent on earth over millions of years, with the exception of Antarctica and Australia. Scientists identified hundreds of proboscidean species and subspecies and they tell us that between 50 or 60 million years ago the creatures that were destined to become elephants (and now roam the forests of Periyar, Nagarahole, Corbett and Kaziranga), occupied every imaginable habitat from rainforests, deserts and coasts, to mountains.
Today, of course, the order has been reduced to just one remaining family, the Elephantidae, of which only three species are still alive – the African bush elephant Loxodonta africana, the African forest elephant Loxodonta cyclotis and the Asian elephant Elephas maximus. The rest of this great order fell prey to environmental changes to which they were simply unable to adapt. Of course humans greatly helped the wooly mammoth along its way to oblivion.
But since so many creatures great and small have come and gone before us, should we even care about the extinctions we are causing? I’d say we should. Not for moral reasons. Morality has little place in the evolutionary sweepstakes. The message lost on international policy makers at yet another meeting (this time at Nagoya, Japan, for the Convention of Biological Diversity, or CBD) is that we need to keep the biodiversity of our planet (the dusty elephants and the ticks on their backs) alive in our own self-interest. This is the conclusion arrived at by 500 of the finest economists and scientists whose opinions have been published in a report on The Economics of Ecosystems and Biodiversity or TEEB. Farsighted (new-age) economists are telling us that we may have caught the climate problem early enough to fix at a relatively low cost. But most Indian (old-age) economists disagree. This powerful but misguided lot are therefore fuelling the great extinction machine. History will describe their misdemeanor as a tragic ‘self goal’ scored in a deadly game of Russian roulette in which one of the bullets has Homo sapiens inscribed on it. www.rent-scooter.com - Scooter rentals in Barcelona. Best prices in town guaranteed! Professional service and a large selection of scooters available
… dust to dust?