How our difficulties protecting big wildlife could be a bad omen for protecting humanity.
Charismatic megafauna is the mouthful of a phrase used to describe the big lovable beasts the world wants to save – or at least cast as stars of our cartoons.
Frozen Bluefin Tuna ready for auction at Tsukiji Market in Tokyo. (Credit: Matt Saunders/flickr)<p>Similarly, much has been written about the bluefin tuna, a half-ton torpedo of a fish whose value has skyrocketed as its numbers have plummeted. Again, Japan is the eco-villain.</p><p>In December, <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/world/2019/jan/05/sushi-king-pays-record-31m-for-endangered-bluefin-tuna-in-japan" target="_blank">a single bluefin sold in Tokyo for $3.1 million</a> – a perverse free-market incentive to catch the last one. The fish, relatively small at 612 pounds, was one more withdrawal from a Pacific bluefin stock estimated to be 96 percent down from its original population.</p><p>And if our global imagination isn't stoked by saving big fish, and even bigger whales, what about more ephemeral challenges like rising CO2 levels? In 2017 and again last year, our output of the <a href="https://www.washingtonpost.com/energy-environment/2018/12/05/we-are-trouble-global-carbon-emissions-reached-new-record-high/?utm_term=.e7961994a084" target="_blank">dominant greenhouse gas increased</a>, despite the torrent of warnings about our climate death wish.</p><p>I wrote a few weeks ago about the <a href="https://www.ehn.org/climate-solutions-treaties-2624583537.html" target="_self">Antarctic Treaty and Montreal Protocol</a>, two international agreements that succeeded in protecting a frozen continent and the ozone layer. </p><p>They're examples of how international cooperation can work. But if we can't come together on protecting charismatic megafauna, or even achieving <em>modest</em> gains in CO2 reduction, they're examples of the tough battles ahead.</p>