Wildlife in the digital age is wild no more. It is noise emanating from a Bluetooth speaker. Pixels glitching across a screen, bound by four sides 10.1, 13.5, 11.3, or 15.6 inches in length and width. Artificial colors straining our retinas and aching our brains (see, you need blue light filtering glasses!). And now, with the coronavirus pandemic, we too share this experience. We too are bound by four walls for what seems like is going to be an eternity. Oh, the irony. Complex biological life enclosed by four sides, viewing a digital representation of other biological life that they re-created for their own viewing pleasure. We are so intrigued by and obsessed with the true wildness of wildlife, but not obsessed enough to protect its natural boundaries and save it from immortal confinement in cyberspace. One must ask, “are we heading for this same end too?”
Regardless of our fate, the fate of wildlife and the natural world was sealed from the moment early humans planted the first seeds and domesticated the first wild animals. From here, wildlife and wild things have been removed from the natural world and, up to present day, transferred into mere code and algorithms. They are glorified in documentaries, docuseries, dramas, and short films and worshipped in playlists, podcasts, pictures, and prints. How fascinating, we say, when we are viewing these productions. But as quickly as our forebrains are stimulated and shocked, we click the remote, close the screen, turn off the speaker and return to our modern, detached, synthetic world.
It truly is a strange, unfortunate, depressing, disconnected, and lonely world we live in nowadays. But there is hope, maybe not for us, but surely for what will survive the disaster that is us. As a veterinarian and ecologist, I do believe in the greater good of humanity, the resilience of wildlife, and the unbendable force that holds all of the natural world together. We, as humans, just have to be a bit more respectful, a lot less wasteful, and kinder to ourselves and other forms of life. We also have to move the screens away from our faces and pay more attention to what is behind them. What is truly important to see does not require blue light filtering glasses.