Dying For Animals: Selfishness or Selflessness?
It is fairly obvious that human beings have encroached upon the other animals and all living things on this planet for centuries. We have affected the course of the future of our environment since the day we got here. The involvement of human beings in nature and what our role is here on earth is something that has recently come to great controversy even in the public and arguments continue as to whether or not Human beings are creators of science and not subject to its laws. Do we have the right to use the planet and its creatures for our own survival regardless of the consequences? But even more recent than this is a question raised by the death of one of the more prominent media icons in animal education and environmentalism, Steve Irwin. Know to most as The Crocodile Hunter, the Aussie's animal antics have raised eyebrows and rolled eyes across the world. Some found hiridiculousus, some found him endearing, others found him irresponsible but after today, September 4th, 2006, Steve Irwin's wild eyed fascination with the animal world is a thing of the past. Irwin is one of a handful of people who got to die doing what he loved best. He was filming a show about aquatic animals and was stung in the chest by the poisonous barb of a sting ray. Death by such a thing is usually very rare, as the poison is excruciatingly painful at best. However, Irwin, being the esoteric lover of the animals he observed, died in the same vain, with an uncharacteristic barb to the heart. The question comes up from such an event, as seen in the past by others dubbed brave, or stupid: Did this man's love for animals prove an honorable, maybe unsurprising, death at the hands of a creature he sought merely to educate the world about or was it is a brazen man conquering the wild attitude that made his death inevitable and for the better? With all the damage human beings have done to the animal world already, is there any validity in this sort of contact with wild animals or, should we be avoiding contact at all costs? What is more, if it is beneficial to both wild creature and human to interfere with these animals lives, where do we draw the line?
Steve Irwin is not the first to bring up such a question; some might remember Timothy Treadwell, the author of the book Among Grizzlies: Living with Wild Bears in Alaska and subject of the 2005 film Grizzly Man. Timothy Treadwell was a man who spent 13 summers camping in Alaska with Brown Bears and referred to them as harmless party animals which is not only a false statement, but a dangerous and irresponsible one made by someone who was allegedly attempting to teach children and the world about the animals he grew to love so much and die at the hand of. According to the Anchorage Daily News, Treadwell was dubbed by Chuck Bartlebaugh of "Be Bear Aware,'' a national bear awareness campaign, as one of the leaders of a group of people attempting to show the world that bears are not dangerous. There is little else known about Timothy's actual motives, though it is known that he had been an alcoholic and drug abuser whose life was supposed to have been changed by these bears. The Regardless of whether you deem to him to be psychopath or environmentalist, the end of the story is sad for man and beast. Not only did Timothy sacrifice his own life by being with these bears but also the lives of his girlfriend, Amie Huguenard and two of the bears he loved so much. The fact of the matter is this was a tragedy that could have very easily been avoided.
To quote a popular movie, With great power comes great responsibility. For better or for worse, human beings were given great power but we have yet to live up to the responsibilities we have in hand. It seems that there is no cut and dry about the situation. Without education and some hands on action there is little hope for the survival of some of the world's most beautiful creatures. If we do not try to make an impact, our children won't have the possibility of knowing these animals other than fantasy stories seen on re-run episodes. However, the responsibility to educate comes in many forms and one of them is educating accurately. Media is a strong tool. One image without context can set a reactionary response to group of people, a species of animal or the state of the environment. Steve Irwin was a man who wanted to spend his entire life saving animals, and has done a few brow raising stunts to make the world question his motives. However, at the end of the day, there is a sense of responsibility that a man like Irwin took that is commendable and appropriate, not to mention he knew how to make us pay attention. As for the actions of men like Treadwell, it is hard to know what his motives were, but it seems that he crossed a line somewhere from selflessness to selfishness that not only endangered himself, but also the creatures he wished to embrace.
"Only when we understand can we care, and only when we care sufficiently will we help"-Jane Goodall