Without them, we would find the world a very different place, that is if we were still alive. Yet very few people give them a thought, and then usually only to dismiss them or castigate them for impinging on our comfortable lives. Animals without backbones, the micro-flora and fauna, are what keep the world a place in which we can make a living. Politicians however, and many others of our fellow travellers on this fragile planet, seem unaware of their importance. Donald Trump rescinds environmental protection laws as if they are a hindrance to humankind rather than a boon, BREXIT politicians and their supporters in the UK extol the virtues of escaping from those silly EU environmental laws that prevent them from polluting our beaches and rivers and making our air unbreathable. We all need to take a step back and adjust our vision so that we can appreciate the little things that run the world and understand that despite our size, our abundance and our apparent dominance, that we too are a part of nature.
I and many others have written about this topic on many occasions but it is a message that bears repetition again and again. I leave you with the passage that stimulated my latest rant and a few links to similar pieces.
“In terms of size, mammals are an anomaly, as the vast majority of the world’s existing animal species are snail-sized or smaller. It’s almost as if, regardless of your kingdom, the smaller your size and the earlier your place on the tree of life, the more critical is your niche on Earth; snails and worms create soil, and blue-green algae create oxygen; mammals seem comparatively dispensable; the result of the random path of evolution over a luxurious amount of time.”
Elizabeth Tova Bailey (2010) – The Sound of a Wild Snail Eating
Here are a few links to give you food for thought and to inspire you to find more of the same.
Michael Samways Small animals rule the world. We need to stop destroying them
E O Wilson (1987) The little things that rule the world
Gregory Mueller & John Schmidt (2007) on why we should know more about fungi
Robert May (2009) Ecological science and tomorrow’s world
Mark Gessner and colleagues (2010) on the importance of decomposers
Anders Dahlberg and colleagues (2010) on why we should conserve fungi
Anne Maczulak (2010) on the importance of bacteria
and from Gerald Durrell, who was a great inspiration to me through his various writings…
And finally, If you haven’t read this, then I can certainly recommend it:
Ehrlich, P. & Ehrlich, A. (1981) Extinction, Random House, New York.