The Australian Broadcasting Corporation, the ABC, holds a reputation. It is a highly respected media source down under, modeled not so loosely on the British Broadcasting Corporation. On taxpayer funds it provides Australians with news, entertainment and community service online, on radio and on TV.
It’s fair dinkum.
No surprise then that the ABC news app uploaded a post providing simple steps people can take to help koalas survive in their area. Just a small but useful morsel of public service information.
Here are the eight headline steps…
- Tell people koalas are going extinct
- Share social media posts
- Protect habitat
- Plant koala food trees
- Watch out for koalas in trouble
- Drive carefully and be vigilant
- Contain dogs
- Save 24-hour rescue hotline into your mobile
I am not sure what you think about this list.
Have a read of it again.
You may find it helpful and informative just as the ABC online editor no doubt hoped. Perhaps you are a fan of the furry and cute koala, so iconically Australian that stuffed toy versions outsell kangaroos in airport departure lounge shops.
But have you seen one in the wild?
Probably not. So the logic leap is that they are rare and, as the list tells us, going extinct. No doubt they need protection.
But there is a problem.
There is no evidence that koalas are going extinct. We don’t even know exactly how many there are in the wild so it’s impossible to know if the numbers are changing towards an extinction risk.
We do know that this species is widespread, cosmopolitan and does very well in favourable habitat containing younger woody plants. It can do so well that some local populations grow rapidly and become overabundant. We also know that the habitat koalas like exist in both agricultural and natural landscapes from Townsville to Mount Gambier, a latitudinal range of nearly 3,000 km.
We also know that when we have a good way to find them, sniffer dogs ironically, they pop up everywhere, often in places where they were either not known or have not been seen for a long time.
Folks, this critter is no more likely to go extinct than the Pope. There are plenty of places for it to hang on indefinitely.
So number one on the list is a lie.
Items 2, 3 and 4 on the list are, therefore, actions based on a lie. Now we are asked to do things that will cost us time and money because some people believe it’s right even though they present no evidence to justify such a request.
This should sound familiar, we see it in politics every day. Only in that forum we allow ourselves some leeway because we know the buggers are rarely honest, it’s why we invented democracy.
Now for a spoiler alert…
species go extinct
They always have.
An average mammal species is present in the fossil record for about 1 million years. There have been extinctions and mass extinctions throughout evolutionary history, some of them catastrophic, and almost all of them occurred before Homo sapiens even existed. And after each single or mass event, evolution continued to generate even more diversity. It’s what nature does.
So, get over it people. Species are an abstract concept, invented by us to help describe nature and how it works but mainly to satisfy our peculiar need to name and classify objects.
And then, for deep psychological reasons only Freud could begin to fathom, we assign a value to the object. Not the species you understand, the objects that make up the species.
This gives us items 5, 6, and 7 on the ABC’s list.
The objects in this case being specific individual koalas, that you or your canine companion (of a single species but with enough human selected natural variation in form and behaviour for a taxonomists to describe a Family or even an Order) might come across on your travels. Noting, of course, that most people will only see a koala in a zoo because they don’t take long walks in the bush staring up at the canopy.
What these ‘object-centered’ actions do ask is for us to be good citizens. People who are careful, aware of what’s going on around us and should we see distress, offer help. Nothing at all wrong with any of these. It’s just they should be a given. I would want to do this anyway for all objects, including other people, and I would want my kids to be vigilant too. It’s the biblical golden rule from Matthew 7:12 “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you“.
Item 8 on the list is, well, it’s blatant marketing.
A hotline? Come on ABC you are supposed to be the last bastion of the precommercial world where information is the currency, not profit or popularity.
The ‘simple steps’ in this list are just an opinion.
So sorry ABC, not fair dinkum, not fair dinkum at all.