Look, let’s abandon this charade, all right?
I understand: You do not give a ringtailed lemur’s posterior about the majority of life on earth. I fully get it. Believe me, I barely give a carp about it, and some of it is my family. Just — respect me enough to admit it, okay?
For years I have come to you with news that the prairie chicken is not doing so well, and you have furrowed your brow and made concerned sounds. But — the prairie chicken does no better. I am sure you intend to do something about the prairie chicken, but “doing something about the prairie chicken” has slid somewhere on your priorities list below “doing nothing about the prairie chicken" and “forming strong, detailed opinions about the coffee cup that briefly appeared in a single shot of ‘Game of Thrones.’” And that’s fine! I mean, it’s not fine, but it’s between you and your God. Just, admit it, so we can stop wasting time.
I feel like the hardest part of my job right now as a scientist is how you pretend you care about other living beings (apart from dogs and cats, the dunking otter, the new dunking otter, or the occasional octopus who has on account of his exceptional gifts risen from straitened circumstances, pulling himself up by eight bootstraps). To save the rich and glorious tapestry of species that makes life possible on earth, there is nothing you would not do, except alter the way you live in even the slightest bit or be mildly inconvenienced for a very brief time. That is the sense I’m getting? I guess I understand why it is an important element of your self-image that you care about such things, but — look, you are not fooling anyone.
The last time we talked, you said absolutely you respected the bodily integrity of turtles but then went out and bought 800 plastic straws because the paper ones were always shriveling up and you disliked their mouthfeel. You claim you care about that beluga whale, but you don’t care about the whale; you just remembered it because it was in a Raffi song.
Just admit you literally do not care about any of these species so that I can stop saying, “We all know and admire the white rhinoceros,” when, obviously, you couldn’t care less. It’s like going on a date where you both pretend to have seen a TV show. I know and care about all these characters, but you just furrowed your brow and asked whether Ross was an ice shelf. It’s embarrassing for me. It’s embarrassing for you. Right?
Look, I will stop sending you materials about the Baxter’s toad for you to dutifully ferry from your mailbox to your trash can the second you just come out and admit it. But you need to admit it first.
Here is a report about how, basically, everything on the planet is going extinct and it is all your fault. We are not going to trouble you any longer with the plight of the right whale. It is a good whale who did not ask for this, and it did not even harm Captain Ahab in any way. But we have spent the past few decades approaching you from the perspective that, surely, you do care about these species, even the ones who are neither charismatic nor megafauna, and that if we just appealed, you would start to turn things around. And in that time — you have, frankly, not.
I have dedicated my life to the marmoset, and I find him fascinating. I know you don’t, not really, no matter how much you claim you do. I know what the cycad is and why it is worth saving. I have a strong sense of the value of gastropods. But clearly, our approach, premised on your caring even a tiny sliver, thin and tiny as a monarch butterfly wing, is not working.
This is why, when the United Nations released our report, we had the chairman explicitly say, “We need to link it to human well-being; that’s the crucial thing. Otherwise we’re going to look like a bunch of tree-huggers.”
Just, tell us what you actually do care about, and we can tie in to that. Starbucks! Cement! My Pillow? There’s got to be something that matters to you. We know it isn’t rare insects. Your own survival, maybe? Surely you care about that, if not about birds so majestic that their plumage is a portable rainbow, or indefatigable beetles that have endured for thousands of years — your own existence.
We must protect that at all costs, so that you can keep doing the precious thing you do so well: demanding that people burn fossil fuels in order to deliver you a single container of snacks from a block away. I’m sorry. I’m not bitter. Just, be honest, please? I have had all I can take.
Read more from Alexandra Petri: