Chalice Lighting Words - 5th June 2016

by NIALL URQUHART
A member of our community, shared his thoughts at our service, on 5 June. It was World Environment Day. He highlighted the fight against illegal trade in wildlife.

Photograph supplied by Niall and Susanne Urquhart

Photograph supplied by Niall and Susanne Urquhart

Today (5 June) is World Environment Day, celebrated each year to raise global awareness and take positive environmental action to protect nature and Planet Earth.

The theme for 2016 is ‘Go Wild for Life’, the fight against the illegal trade in wildlife. We’re increasingly aware of the mounting threats to our biodiversity and the massive ecological and social cost of these losses. Poaching, smuggling and trading in wildlife products are driving entire species to the brink of extinction. For example, in Tanzania’s famous Serous Game Reserve, the elephant and rhino population has fallen by 90% since it was listed as a World Heritage Site in 1982. Between 2010 and 2014, 100,000 African elephants were killed, out of a total population of under 500,000. In December, the International Union for the Conservation of Nature predicted that African elephants could be extinct in the wild within a decade if the current rate of loss continues. Yesterday, 4 June, the United Nations Environment Programme and Interpol published a report estimating that the value of environmental crime has reached a new record at $258 billion a year, dwarfing the illegal trade in small arms, which is valued at $3 billion.

Susanne, Martha, Sam and I were very fortunate to be able to travel to South Africa in April, and to visit the recently-expanded Addo Elephant National Park, which was set up to save the eleven remaining elephants in the Eastern Cape, and where pro-active conservation efforts have seen their number increase to 600. The successful conservation and protection of wildlife in South Africa, here in the UK and throughout the world, is dependent on the efforts of the army of often poorly-paid rangers and volunteers, who work in, sometimes, very difficult and dangerous conditions, and too often go unnoticed and unrewarded.

In ‘Life on Earth’, David Attenborough said that ‘The fact is that no species has ever had such wholesale control over everything on earth, living or dead, as we now have. That lays upon us, whether we like it or not, an awesome responsibility. In our hands now lies not only our own future, but that of all other living creatures with whom we share the earth.’ On World Environment Day, I light the candle for all those who have acknowledged that responsibility, and who are working to conserve and protect wildlife throughout the world.