All Creatures Great And Small

I apologise to those of you who are now humming the rest of 'All Things Bright And Beautiful', that 1848 hymn by Cecil Frances Alexander. I owe the name of the June Challenge, 'Great And Small', to her. If you've forgotten half the words, here you go:

A couple of things immediately struck me when I started this challenge. First - HOLY Scheisse, there are a lot of creatures out there. Second - aaaaand we humans seem to be doing our very best to wipe them out. Thankfully, the solution to our predilection for mass extinction doesn't seem to be overly complicated - we just need to stop heating up the planet.

A rise in the daily high temperature in summer is the clearest indicator in whether or not a species will go extinct, according to a study by the University of Arizona. They found that about 50% of the species studied in 581 sites had local extinctions if maximum temperatures increased by more than 0.5 degrees Celsius, and 95% if temperatures increase by more than 2.9 degrees Celsius.

The problem is that it seems that basically everything we do heats the planet up - driving in our cars, hopping on a plane, using air-conditioning, turning on the lights at night, online shopping, eating meat... the list of activities is endless. So while the solution is simple, executing it is anything but.

We have to try though.

While spending this month on the Great And Small challenge, I thought about concrete actions we can take to help out the dizzying array of creatures with whom we share this planet.

Here are some of the things I plan on doing next time this challenge rolls around:

  • Switch to organic, local produce as much as possible. Bees are vital to so many of the foods we grow, but bee populations are being ravaged by the use of pesticides in large-scale agricultural production.

  • Pick a critically endangered animal from the IUCN Red List and spend a bit of time researching organisations that are working to protect it from extinction. Then, pick a pointless purchase - perhaps that last unnecessary beer or wine while out with friends each week - and instead donate that money to the wildlife organisation.

  • This one seems like a no-brainer, but just eat less animals. Such a simple tweak and one that can be done without sacrificing much. It works in two ways. Firstly, it saves the lives of the animals you were going to eat. Secondly, factory farming is one of the main contributors to global warming. By refusing to support the industry, we can reduce the enormous damage done to our climate by this industry.

  • On a personal scale, what can we do to improve the lives of the animals we live with? How can we show them some more love? If we don't have pets, is there a local animal shelter we could support in some way?

Lastly, I think one of the most important aims of this challenge is to just increase empathy, respect, and understanding for all the amazing species on our planet. It's pretty vile when you think that the UK is only just now passing laws that recognise animals as sentient beings. I mean, honestly, who do we think we are?

We can work on building some respect for our fellow earthlings by having a lovely little internet deep-dive into the countless videos out there of the weird and wonderful beings living on our planet. Here's a good one to start with.

We're absolutely spoiled when it comes to utterly bizarre creatures to marvel at - it would be such a shame to lose them. Obviously, you don't have to wait until next June to do this challenge - any of the challenges can be done at any time! You can find the challenge details here and our Instagram stories for this challenge under the 'June Challenge' highlight cover.

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