Dreaming of Dodos: The 40-Year Living Planet Index Challenge

October 1, 2014 8:05 PM

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Think of the dodo. This extinct bird, flightless and synonymous with idiocy, has always poked quietly, gently at some dark corner of our minds. When we first learn about the dodo's demise at the hands of colonial explorers, we often joke about its intellect (or lack thereof). I'm willing to bet that a number of you partook in the joking at the poor, maligned dodo's expense. I know I called my younger brother a dodo at least once, but most likely a few times. I'm also equally certain that many of you shared my quieter, subtler reaction to learning about the dodo's fate. Somewhere in my brain, amidst the clutter of childhood games and aspirations, between navigating multiplication tables and skinned knees, the dodo's death hurt me. This awkward bird, so ill-suited to the life that was abruptly thrust upon it, was gone. I couldn't visit the dodo at the zoo. I couldn't look at pictures of dodos, except for the slightly unsettling illustrations in the copy of Alice in Wonderland my parents kept in the den. Maybe you reacted the same way as I did, taking those few potshots at a sibling and chasing them with a brief moment of youthful introspection. Then I moved on. So did you. Life is movement; life is change.

The recent news from the London Zoological Society is about change, and life. The population of wildlife on our planet has decreased by half over the last 40 years. Did you read that? Half. There are no words in any language that I could choose that would truly convey the magnitude of that statement...

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