Does your heart melt, like mine, when you see a baby panda, a snow leopard cub, or a new-born elephant? Do you, like me, experience a breath-catching awe at the innate grace and beauty of those animals, grown to adult size and roaming free in their natural terrain?
The Giant Panda is still an endangered species, with only one thousand pandas remaining. Expansion of the human population into the panda's habitat, and the resulting destruction of their food and shelter, is squeezing the rare vegetarian bear out of existence.
Snow Leopards - perhaps as few as 3,500 of them, are hunted to near extinction for the monetary value of their fur and organs. Human poverty is the source of their endangerment.
Imperiled by success, Elephants are again threatened with extinction. While their habitat is over-run by expanding human populations, elephant populations which increase are (ironically) accused of 'over-breeding', and threatened with culling. South African officials add that they will kill entire families of elephants, as they "wish to lessen the grief of the survivors".
The elephant - largest land animal on earth; the snow leopard - a great cat that doesn't roar; the Panda Bear - a carnivore subsisting on bamboo: all are unique marvels, representative of lesser-known species already extinct or on the verge of disappearing from our planet by the thousands.
In her book "All Hearts on Deck", Frankie Seymour writes, (humans are) "a species which must learn compassion or die along with its victims..." (page 111); and also "I am convinced that the only thing that can save us now is compassion, and the intellectual recognition of compassion as the only motivation that is moral or rational or pragmatic. If we fail to accept compassion as our paradigm, it is possible, just possible, that some of us may survive anyway--but not in any world or any society that I would wish to see survive." (page 155)
In her novel "The Light Bearer", Donna Gillespie writes, ""If I live, I won't serve out of duty, as you did. Perhaps duty, that is where we went off course. If we serve it should be for -- for what? For love, love for what might be." (page 222)
For love of what might be,
for love of a world
where pandas roam free -
where whales dive deep -
where elephants don't grieve
the slaughter of kin --
let us serve with compassion.
Let us despise the gold
that poisons wilderness rivers
and ivory carved from tusks once living
and soft fur that knew the purr of a great cat.
Do we need to be draped in the evidence of murder
to feel beautiful?
Let us mingle our voices in a pool of compassion
that drowns out the drumbeat of
all who maintain that mankind must be first
and last until we are only -- all that is left.