“Oh, my goodness, look at all these! Golden Oreos, Cookie Dough Oreos, Mega Stuff Oreos, Birthday Cake Oreos—perhaps the system of free enterprise is not as terrible as I once feared,” saith Pope Francis.
Now, I must admit there is some question as to the legitimacy of this photograph, and of the Pope’s comment about the wide selection of Oreos and the free enterprise system. None of this sounds “Pope Like”. However, this did get me thinking about the wonderful Oreo. Could it somehow be the key to World Peace? Think about it. And one might even say the original Oreo was years ahead of its time. The Oreo was touting the harmony of ebony and ivory long before Paul McCartney and Stevie Wonder made this into a hit song.
That said, before you write this article off and suggest I return to animal activism, there is some seriousness and legitimacy to this discussion. Not so much the Oreo, although wouldn’t that be wonderful if world peace were attained so easily. After all, who doesn’t like Oreos? And with the introduction of Almond Milk, Lactose Free Milk, and Soy Milk, even the poor lactose-intolerant souls can now join the rest of us in dipping our Oreos in a cold glass of milk. In fact, I might celebrate the completion of this narrative by having an Oreo…with milk of course.
So, the photograph of the Pope holding up the bags of Oreos was published in The Onion.com and perhaps it is legitimate. Who knows? However, the Pope’s visit to the United States certainly created a lot of excitement, interest and perhaps some compassionate momentum that is so desperately needed in today’s world…particularly in our treatment of animals. And his words were so eloquently spoken, I won’t even attempt to paraphrase or regurgitate in my own words. So, let me simply quote him below:
“We have only one heart, and the same wretchedness which leads us to mistreat an animal will not be long in showing itself in our relationships with other people. Every act of cruelty towards any creature is ‘contrary to human dignity.”
“Because of us, thousands of species will no longer give glory to God by their very existence, nor convey their message to us. We have no such right.”
“In assessing the environmental impact of any project, concern is usually shown for its effects on soil, water and air, yet few careful studies are made of its impact on biodiversity, as if the loss of species or animals and plant groups were of little importance. … As a result, some species face extinction.”
“It is not enough, however, to think of different species merely as potential ‘resources’ to be exploited, while overlooking the fact that they have value in themselves.”
“It is contrary to human dignity to cause animals to suffer or die needlessly.”
“Everything is related, and we human beings are united as brothers and sisters on a wonderful pilgrimage, woven together by the love God has for each of his creatures and which also unites us in fond affection with brother sun, sister moon, brother river and mother earth.”
There was a time when I believed coincidences to be just that. However, in recent years, I have come to conclude that the occurrence of similar events over a short period of time is only coincidental if we choose to accept that belief. I would like to believe that there is a link between Cecil the Lion’s tragic story, the world release of the Blood Lions documentary, and the Pope’s visit to the United States. And critical events often occur in the sequence of three. Could all these be connected?
Cecil brought outrage and anger; unveiled much of what the pro-hunting community would have preferred to remain under the radar, so to speak. He also helped to enact some immediate change, as well as positive momentum toward more potential change to protect the animals. Blood Lions will be released to the world in just a few days, and based upon previous screenings in South Africa and for select groups; this documentary will cause similar…if not greater outrage than Cecil and demand for further change. And with the Pope’s edict on the treatment of animals, 1.2 billion Catholics around the world at least have the moral and ethical obligation to follow his direction.
Given that 41.3% of the Catholic population is in Latin America, perhaps this is good news for the jaguar. And according to the BBC, Africa actually shows the greatest increase in Catholicism, with an increase in Catholics from 45 million in 1970 to 176 million in 2012. So, perhaps, this may drive the African communities to do more to protect the lion, leopard, cheetah and other exotic species. And with another 85 million in North America, I don’t know if the Pope’s message will sway hunters to put down their rifles and pick up their cameras. But perhaps, a few legislators may now feel obligated to do something.
And of course, aside from the 1.2 billion Catholics on the earth, this does not factor in non-Catholic Christians and other religious groups that are also likely to be influenced by the Pope’s guidance and leadership. And this piece was never intended to be a discussion of the religions; however the geographical shift of Christians (including Catholics) is intriguing.
According to Pew, Christians comprised approximately 35% of the world’s population a century ago and 32% today. So, the overall percentage is similar. However, as noted in the chart below, there has been a dramatic drop of Christian population in Europe – from 66.3% in 1910 to only 25.9% in 2010. Yet, the Sub-Saharan Africa Christian population has increased from 1.4% to 23.6% and Asia-Pacific Christian population from 4.5% to 13.1%.
So according to Pew, there are nearly 2.2 billion Christians on this earth today. This is a sizeable portion of the overall world’s population that should be influenced by the Pope’s message; and with some obligation to answer and follow his message. But that is not to suggest that other religions: Muslims (23.2%), Hindus (15%), Buddhists (7.1%), and others, including non-affiliated, shouldn’t be influenced by the Pope’s message as well. It is compassionate and ethical and right. We all should be influenced by this message and influenced to act.
THE SIXTH MASS EXTINCTION
Scientists have noted that five times in the past, the Earth has been struck by cataclysmic events; so severe and swift (in geological terms), that they obliterated most kinds of living things before they ever had a chance to adapt. Those scientists are now saying that the Earth is on the brink of a sixth such “mass extinction event.” And unlike the previous extinctions, this is all on us.
In 2003, Harvard biologist E.O. Wilson calculated that Earth would lose half its higher life forms by 2100 if the current rate of human disruption continued; and scores of scientific studies have sought to bolster that claim. And whether you buy into the gloom and doom of a mass extinction, there are few that would disagree that we are losing wildlife at an alarming rate; with the primary influencing factor clearly being habitat loss.
Think about this: In 1800, there were an estimated 1 billion people on this earth. In 1900, there were 1.6 billion people. Today there are 7.2 billion people and projections indicate nearly 11 billion people on this earth by the turn of the century. That is incredible, truly unsustainable growth – at least as it relates to the negative impact on our world’s wildlife.
Another 4 billion people between today and the turn of the century will need a place to live and loss of habitat will continue to have a devastating impact on wildlife. Unfortunately, the truth of the matter is that much of this cannot be stopped. However, there is so much we can do to slow these rates down…improving our sustainable habits, increasing environmental conservation, improving density planning, taking a more aggressive approach to clamping down on poaching, and eliminating non-productive hunting practices (i.e trophy hunting of threatened and endangered species).
So, can the conflux of Cecil, Blood Lions and the Pope influence our behaviors to the good? The answer is an adamant yes. But we must all look deep within ourselves and ask the question of whether we are all doing everything we can to make a difference. Otherwise, these beautiful creatures below will be gone long before I breathe my last breath in this world. So, have an Oreo on me and let’s make some positive change.