Add Puffins to the Growing List of Casualties of Our Culture

Puffins are dying en masse across the North Atlantic. I’m not sure why the AP felt the need to specifically describe the birds as “comical-looking”–as opposed to, say, humans–but they at least included a quote from Rebecca Holberton, a professor at the University of Maine, who has studied puffins for years and who said of the most recent puffin die-off: “It’s our marine canary in a coal mine, if you will.” Except it’s not, because unlike people of this culture as a whole, miners in a subterranean tunnel usually pay attention to the canary and take action when its death signals danger. Or at least, that’s how it’s supposed to work.

As usual, this story will sit on page A5 (as it was in the Austin American-Statesman), never to be read or cared about again by anybody. This hubris is nothing new; consider this little gem from the article, written so matter-of-factly that it’s as if the author is describing the sun coming up in the East: “An estimated 6 to 8 million puffins live across the North Atlantic, from Maine to northern Russia. But they almost disappeared from Maine after settlers hunted them in the late 1800s for food, eggs and feathers. By 1901, only one pair of puffins nested in Maine, on remote Matinicus Rock.”

Let’s go ahead and add puffins to the list, shall we? Let’s see, we’ve already got bees, bats, sharks, and wolves, and that’s just taking thirty seconds searching for articles written last month. Lest we forget that 90% of the large fish in the ocean are gone, compared to 1950 numbers. 90%.

Our problems are not the worry of future generations. We are, right this very second, in the midst of an ongoing apocalypse. The sooner we realize that fact, and take appropriate action (the most important thing being withdrawing and intentionally limiting the human population via contraception/adoption), the better for our species–for all species.

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