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Spadina Literary Review  —  edition 8 page 15


The first reported find of a dinosaur bone was in the 1820s in England, in the heart of the Industrial Revolution. As more bones were excavated and the trajectory of the “terrible lizards” was pieced together, European society succumbed to a wave of dinosaur-mania. In 1854 the Crystal Palace in London, which three years earlier had hosted a legendary exhibition of gigantic industrial machinery, hosted a display of life-size dinosaur models. There have been periodic renewals of dinomania right up to current times. Every museum worth its salt has its dinosaur skeletons.

Extinction's poster-boy

How did the dinosaur get to be the poster-boy of extinction? Why are dinosaurs so posthumously popular?

Dinosaurs remind us of us, that's why. They tell us what must happen to us. They inhabited all the continents. Some of them walked on their hind legs. They ‘ruled’ the earth. Then, 65 million years ago, on some Cretaceous Friday the 13th, they went extinct.

Various explanations for the demise of the dinosaurs have been proposed over the years: disease, parasites, the Great Flood, poor diet, brain shrinkage, senility, dinosaur wars, continental drift, cosmic radiation, clinical depression, over-specialization, hunting expeditions by extraterrestrials and, most recently, drastic climate change triggered by volcanoes and/or asteroid impact.

Climate change reminds us of the planet’s current predicament. Volcanoes and asteroids remind us of the absurdity of fate.

The stories we tell about the animals are ultimately stories we tell ourselves about ourselves. Nowadays we tell ourselves a funereal tale. All of natural history is a series of mass extinctions. And there's no point to them unless it was — ready for this? — unless it was to lay down layers of oil for us to combust in order to prepare the grand finale.

I don’t know how people can be nonchalant. By the end of this century as many as half of all species will be gone. Is anyone betting that we won’t go down with them? I personally have little faith that we’ll escape to Mars in an Utpanishtim’s Ark.

It's very simple: consumerism = earthwreck. Everybody has to simplify their lives.

Not a single candidate for office should be supported who does not put their environmental policy first and that means ahead of their puffed-up job plans. Every business and household should have an environmental impact reduction plan.

Not only do we require draconian action from governments, which we’re not getting, but we require draconian self-governance by each individual, which is even tougher to obtain.

I don't want to be the one who has to apologize to the animals. To the other animals, I should be saying.