Tue | Sep 18, 2018

Peter Espeut | Home sweet home: Survival of the fittest

Published:Tuesday | February 20, 2018 | 12:00 AM
Blue-tailed galliwasp
Jamaican yellow-billed parrot
Manatee
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As The Gleaner recognises Peter Espeut's 25 years as columnist with this publication, today, we present the first in a special series of articles from the natural resource manager and rural development scientist.

The ecological space we call Jamaica is our habitat, our physical home we share with other creatures, great and small - Jamaicans all. From the natural environment around this island, we humans and other animals have to find living space, as well as food and shelter.

The law of the jungle that we animals live by is 'survival of the fittest', and the human species will beat out all others every time, because we are 'the fittest' - the top predator species in our modern jungle.

Although we are the most versatile in terms of the ecosystems within which we can survive, we have little respect for our fellow Jamaicans who cannot survive without forests, wetlands or coral reefs as their habitat. And so we destroy our reefs and are surprised when there is less fish to eat. And we chop down the forest trees and are surprised when there is less birdsong. We build next to or within our wetlands and complain that crocodiles are invading our living space, when it is we who have invaded theirs.

Selfish and murderous we are to our blood-fellows, it is not surprising that we prove to be unwilling to share our island home with those Jamaicans who were here before we came.

We have pride in ourselves as thinking, conscious beings, higher and nobler than savage animals, because we possess the faculty of judgement and an ethical value system that allow us to plan for the future. 'Might is right' and 'survival of the fittest' will poke holes in the web of life until humanity is alone on the planet.

In the same way that we care for the weak and defenceless and the marginalised among the human family, we must care for those species most vulnerable to our depredations. We, the fittest, must help others to survive.

- Peter Espeut has been a Gleaner columnist for 25 years.