The End of The World As We Know It: Broken Wild

This is an ongoing column called The End of the World As We Know It, where I will attempt to show you what our future will look like if we continue to destroy the environment at our current rate. These stories may seem like worst-case scenarios. They are not. Based on predictions from leading scientists and my own personal experiences, know that, without a significant change, this is our future. Thank you for reading.

The End of The World As We Know It: Broken Wild

John Kirages, Staff Writer

A little girl skips through the forest, or at least, the small copse of trees posing as a forest. She is young, young enough that she does not remember the magnificent swathes of wilderness that once covered the land in green. Those are gone now, swallowed by the dust. She breathes deeply and catches the inescapable scent of sawdust in the air and hears the never-ending whine of blades gnashing through the deciduous giants.

Ever watchful, she spots a single starved squirrel hiding behind a tree. She cries for joy and sits still so as not to disturb the animal. The squirrel approaches and she lets out a gasp. The animal is painfully thin, its stomach tight against its skin. The tail is frayed and droopy. It crawls forward and sits on its back legs, begging for food. The girl bends over, picks an acorn from the ground, and tosses it to the suffering creature before her. He looks at it, sniffs it, and then continues to beg.

The girl’s grandfather, finally catching up to her, lays a hand on her shoulder and shakes his head sadly. “It has forgotten what it means to be a creature of the Wild,” he says. “It learned that humans give food, and no longer knows how to scavenge for its supper.” As the squirrel slowly drags itself away, the girl’s grandfather pulls her close and reminisces about the beauty of the forests of his youth.

The world’s forests are dying incredibly fast. About one and a half acres of forest are cut down each second around the world for energy, construction, manufacturing, paper (Americans use 700 pounds each year), and, most commonly, to make room for agriculture and settlement. While we may feel isolated from the devastation, nearly every effect of deforestation will impact all of mankind. Forests create oxygen for the citizens of the world (about 20% of the Earth’s oxygen is produced within the Amazon) and soak up greenhouse gasses. Forest-loss results in a 12% to 17% increase in net emissions each year. Deforestation also leads to soil erosion, water contamination, floods, wildlife extinction (28,000 species are expected to become extinct within the next 25 years as a result of deforestation), and climate imbalance. We need not be resigned to a world where animal life is scarce and domesticated and where the few truly wild places are contaminated with the endless grinding of machines, but without significant changes to the way our species acts, the mightiest of all living things will be lost to us forever.