In Louis CK's latest standup comedy special (brilliant as usual) he stated "Do you realize we've removed ourselves from the food chain? That's a pretty big accomplishment considering that every other living thing on this planet is likely to die as a meal for something else."
In this day and age not being on the food chain is an obvious "given" to most of us, not something we think about, much less appreciate. Thus I had to stop and consider how much different life would be if I had to peek out my front door before heading to work for fear a large predator was waiting to pounce.
As a species we've come to believe that the laws of nature don't apply to us, and the food chain is no exception. Perhaps that's why shark attacks are always a media sensation and often come with a cry to find and kill the animal responsible for this outrage. Being put back on the food chain suddenly and unexpectedly is definitely a bit disarming, especially when you believe you are above the laws of nature that apply to EVERYTHING on this planet. Therefore, when a shark is, well, being a shark, we deem it as behaving badly. How dare a shark bite one of our precious 7.5 billion population?! Apparently we're all too special to be subjected to nature's rules.
But Sharks aren't the only animals that kill humans; bears, hippos, crocodiles, lions, dogs, bees, etc. all kill people annually, and do so at a rate far higher than sharks, so why all the hype over shark attacks? I'd have to guess part of the reason is that in the case of other animals, particularly along the lines of hippos and bears, there's a notion that the people somewhat deserved it by entering the specific area where those animals are known to live, such as entering a river in Kenya. Compare that to a family on a beach vacation losing a loved one and it's much more media worthy. Also, in the case of sharks, the area isn't so specific. Just about any location in the ocean has at least one species of shark, therefore there's a chance, although tiny, that a shark encounter can occur anytime you enter the water anywhere.
There are locations notorious for shark attacks, but that doesn't stop us from entering those waters. There are areas known as shark feeding grounds, but that doesn't stop us from being shocked and outraged when a shark bites a lone swimmer in seal infested water. Instead we put up shark nets to prevent sharks from entering areas they've always entered. The result: drowned sharks, drowned seals, drowned turtles, drowned dolphins, drowned birds, etc. and a collapse of the previously existing ecosystem. All so the newly developed hotel chain on the beach can advertise safe swim beaches. Will there come a day when not a single beach isn't claimed for sole human enjoyment, all other creatures be damned?
I'm not saying sharks would make good pets. I'm not saying they aren't dangerous. I'm not saying I want to be eaten (although being bitten and surviving might be cool). But I am saying that we need to start acting like we're part of this earth, not just feeding off the earth. We need to learn to share it. Sharks, whether you love them or hate them, are a necessity. Period. The oceans will die without them and in fact are dying as shark numbers decline.
Considering the effect of our exponentially expanding population, being back on the food chain could very well be the best thing for future of the human race as well as the rest of this planet. So the next time you hear about someone being eaten, perhaps a little gratitude, not anger, should be the feelings expressed toward mother nature.
BTW, for your convenience, here are my two favorite parts from LCK's special. Food Chain and Of Course...but Maybe.
Admittedly, I was concerned that China, Japan, Gambia, India, and Granada would successfully con and bribe sharks and rays off the CITES Appendix II list they had just been added to a few days earlier, today, the decisions stood, those countries failed, and sharks won. When I say sharks won, I actually mean the world won. The entire planer cannot survive without the ocean and the ocean cannot survive without sharks.
The new classification is intended to ensure exports of these commercially fished animals are sustainable and legal. Great news! However, defining what "sustainable" means is another battle...considering the devastating techniques used in modern fishing and the collapse of 90% of the ocean's predatory fishes in the last 50 years, I believe there is room for argument on whether the defined limits are in fact sustainable. And of course there is the issue of enforcement of these limits.
But enough pessimism from me. Hurray for today's victory. It is a step forward and a sign that the
Debra Canabal of Epic Diving in the WSV hoodie. Get yours!
About the Author
Skyler Thomas is the primary blog contributor, cinematographer, and lead editor at White Shark Video.