Dying Dolphins

The recent news that the corpses of a dozen endangered river porpoises were discovered in China’s Dongting Lake deeply saddened me, but even more sadly, did not surprise me. The finless porpoise has been threatened by environmental toxicity in China for many years now, as evidenced by this 2008 National Geographic report.

This Chinese river dolphin, the baiji, is already extinct. This photograph is of one of the last of its kind. Now the finless porpoise is equally threatened.

The effects of climate change are clearly widespread, as is the over consumption of the human population and overpopulation of the earth. Until we recognize the impact of our daily decisions, I am pessimistic about the ability for us to reverse the process already set into motion. Unfortunately, even environmental pioneers like Yvon Chouinard, founder of Patagonia, are pessimistic about the idea of ‘sustainability’ and state that we have to minimize our impact, but that we, as a species, will never be entirely impact-free. He spoke of this to Kai Ryssdal during yesterday’s Marketplace report on NPR.

The story can be heard here:
http://www.marketplace.org/node/53393/player/storyplayer

In general, these are the problems and questions that plague me. Recently, I’ve been working on a new fiction writing project that tackles these concerns and will hopefully, at the very least, provide me with a catharsis for all the angst these problems create. I suppose the best we can all do is be aware of the widespread impacts of our consumerism.

One of the best decisions you can make if you ‘need’ something is to opt for higher-quality goods, which also, fortunately, have a longer shelf life. Sure, recycling is great, but it’s a lot better to buy something you’ll never throw away and can pass down to your kids or friends. The eco lighting maker Bocci notes that in pre-industrial societies, individuals would only ‘own’ 100 objects in their lives, thereby making each object ‘practical, beautiful, particular, inherited, and well made’. Americans probably own 100 objects in a year, if not more. Although initially more expensive, the cost-per-use ratio of well made products is both good for the environment and your wallet. The Utility Collective is also on the cutting edge of this, allowing customers to access the design process of their sustainably-made products so that you will know exactly how each object is made (and all in U.S. factories).

Essentially, I suppose, this all comes down to the gap between ‘need’ and ‘want.’ And until we, as a global society, recognize that wanting does not ultimately fulfill us, there will be consequences galore, as evidenced by the alarming deaths of the finless porpoises.

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About Kaitlin Solimine

Kaitlin Solimine was raised in New Hampshire but has considered China a second home for the past two decades. She is the author of the award-winning forthcoming novel Empire of Glass and co-founder of Hippo Reads, a media start-up connecting academic insights with real world issues. She lives in Singapore.
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One Response to Dying Dolphins

  1. Education and awareness leads the way to understanding the plight of the animal kingdom. My little story, is where there used to be over a hundred pairs of storks in and around the bell towers of the great church in Salamanca, Spain, now there are only 30 left in the whole of region. I was lucky to see a live nest from the bell tower on rather a windy and rainy day. The sight was as if I were witnessing something from prehistoric times, with its large spiky nest perched on the ledge. It is such a shame that many people want to get rid of these lovely birds. The storks unwittingly cooperate by feeding on the rubbish heaps, which ultimately poison them.

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