World Tiger Day. Really?
I don't like any of our so-called "Days". I think they just allow us all to feel earnest, post something on social media, rejoice at the number of Likes and RTs and then go back to business as usual. They're there to raise awareness apparently. OK, great. We've been having them for years, awareness now raised but the story of our planet continues to go from bad to worse. So it was just now when within a few seconds I saw a post on BBC about there being little more than 100 Tigers left in the Bangladeshi Sundarbans - the low numbers due to rampant poaching - and a post on Facebook saying "Let's all celebrate World Tiger Day!" Right.
I fear that I'm just being miserable but I suspect that all the World Tiger Days until now have achieved very little to stop the slaughter in Bangladesh, India, Russia, China, Indonesia, anywhere. Perhaps I'm wrong - is this perhaps the first ever World Tiger Day? And with it, the magnificent beasts will be saved, our Likes and RTs, reaching the poachers and their customers convincing them to see a different light, a new path?
Last year we had our very first ever World Orang-utan Day. Good effort, not diminishing it but still, today, my Facebook feed is full of pictures of a beautiful male Orang-utan killed by a plantation worker, holes in his magnificent cheekpads from a farm hoe. It's a daily nightmare of grief with constant reports of the animals' forest homes felled and converted into palm oil, rubber or some other cash crop to feed growing human numbers.
Each year we have World Environment Day, World Arbor Day, World Goodness Knows What Day. Yet these tragedies continue to unfold. Our awareness may well have been raised by these "Days" but little else seems to have changed. Indeed, more and more grim stories emerge of species racing towards extinction ahead of poachers' guns, plantation company excavators, fires etc. Each day we learn about new horrors, many perpetrated against our fellow human beings as well as other fellow travellers.
It's more than a bit depressing and certainly maddening.
The question then comes, "OK, so...what to do"? And that's the rub. What else indeed? What meaningful actions can we take to protect these species, other humans? It seems that nothing has worked to date. At The Forest Trust, we've hit upon companies making No Deforestation and No Exploitation commitments. We're working hard alongside others to get them implemented. There's innovation, there's grappling, there is even positive change but there are backsliders too and in low moments, I wonder whether the sheer weight of humanity will eventually overwhelm everything. Are we intent on creating silent forests, silent landscapes devoid of biodiversity?
I'm left deeply distressed and depressed by this unfolding. It really does seem to me that we live in a time of darkness, of awful treatment and extinctions. Our society just seems to be becoming more violent. Yes, perhaps I am just being miserable. It happens sometimes. Perhaps there is more hope than I can see at this juncture. Fingers crossed. But ultimately, I feel we must all do a lot more than just Like something on Facebook, or Retweet something on Twitter, or sign a petition to support a "World Day".
I ask myself whether the great ability of social media to raise awareness has also somehow numbed us to the flow of horror news we receive every moment. And in our greater understanding - which we surely now have compared to 10 years ago - do we instead become immune, thinking that merely by clicking "LIKE" we have done all we can as we hurry to the next issue, the next sweet photo of some family member, some friend?
My challenge to everyone really is to imagine what else you might do. My job is to imagine what else I might do and then get up and do it. Clearly we're not doing enough but throwing hands in the air and exclaiming "what more can I do?" doesn't seem to be working. Indeed, we seem to be abrogating our responsibility.
The world's remaining Tigers, Orang-utans and other incredible and critically endangered species need a hell of a lot more than just some awareness raising day named in their honour. They need action. So far, whatever action we've taken hasn't had the necessary impact. We need new actions, more actions. What they are I don't know - which really annoys me - but if we all wake up and ponder what we might do beyond clicking a button, beyond our love of "World Days", we might hurt our brains into dreaming up something better. We might get somewhere, even if only a little further to actually achieving something. Let's hope so.