Here is the interview…
Michael Greenwell Puts the Focus on Extinction with “Exit Stage Right” (Interview)
Only his DJ career should be extinct
Scotland’s Michael Greenwell has worked, at various times, as a university tutor, a barman, a DJ (“not a very good one,” he clarifies), an office lackey, supermarket worker, president of a small charity, a researcher, a librarian, a volunteer worker in Nepal during the civil war there, and “some other things that were too tedious to mention.” Nowadays, he explains, “I am always in the education sector in one way or another.”
Part of his role as educator is the creation of a blog called Exit Stage Right, where you’ll find this mission statement of sorts:
“We are in the early stages of what could easily become the biggest mass extinction the planet has ever seen. This site is a resource for anyone to use to keep track of what has just become extinct or what is in serious danger.”
Jeff Corwin, author of 100 Heartbeats, would likely agree: “Every 20 minutes we lose an animal species,” Corwin explains. “If this rate continues, by century’s end, 50% of all living species will be gone. It is a phenomenon known as the sixth extinction. The fifth extinction took place 65 million years ago when a meteor smashed into the Earth, killing off the dinosaurs and many other species and opening the door for the rise of mammals. Currently, the sixth extinction is on track to dwarf the fifth.”
Thus, promoting awareness and action on the crucial issue of extinction is part of Michael Greenwell’s activist life and spirit. “I used to be an inveterate marcher but have pretty much given up on it now and like everyone else am looking for a way to effect real change without precipitating disaster or inviting the imposition of further constraints upon the public,” he says.
To hear more of his thoughts, check out the interview below…
My Conversation With Michael Greenwell
Planet Green: How did you get started on the issue of extinction?
Michael Greenwell: A few years ago, I started to notice the increasing frequency of the “Only 200 of this thing left” or “__________ on verge of extinction” stories that pop up every couple of weeks on page 11. Like anyone else I thought “Oh, that’s terrible” but I started to wonder why these things were not front page news. It is an entirely different category of story to a story about some politician being an idiot in one way or another (don’t get me started on celebrities), because if a politician is sacked or voted out there is always another vainglorious clown waiting to take his or her place. Unlike politicians, in the animal extinction issue, “gone” means “gone forever and not coming back” which is a much more serious thing.
PG: How did that lead to the creation of your blog?
MG: I thought about just putting all the stories I could find on the issue on one site with no fear or favor about where it comes from—just a link to where the story comes from and then the info. I hoped maybe to get some general readers but also that maybe some activists and scientists that work in the field would take a look at it and use it as a resource. That has happily been the case. Aside from that you would be surprised at some of the abuse I have got for it.
PG: Is there a common thread in such abuse?
MG: Usually it is of the “animals will hurt you if they get a chance so why should we give a shit about them?” variety. This is so ridiculous I don’t even bother responding to it usually.
PG: Conversely, have you heard from readers who’ve thanked you for the blog and now see extinction as an urgent issue?
MG: Yes. Notwithstanding the abuse I get quite a lot of correspondence about it all. I often get emails from teenagers asking for help with a school project about something which is a positive sign. If i can I direct them to where they want to be looking for more information on the subject or groups they want to join. There are also a lot of people who tell me that they had never realised the problem was this serious and so on. A lot of conservationist groups send me their press releases too. Finally, I occasionally receive emails from people asking me to endorse their eco-product or enviro-tourism. I haven’t yet seen one of these that I would consider having anything to do with.
PG: If you could reach as wide an audience as possible with information about extinction and the human role in this maddening trend, what would you tell them?
MG: I was thinking the about it the other day when I was showing Supersize Me to a group of students. The doctor was telling Morgan Spurlock about how the human liver is resilient and can heal itself but that by doing his McDeaths experiment he was literally pickling his liver with toxic food like was done in Leaving in Las Vegas with alcohol. I thought that there was an analogy there. The ecosystem is resilient, it can take a lot of shit that you might throw at it. Even if it takes a temporary hit it can rebound and replenish itself…some individual cells will be gone of course but other ones are made. This is the natural way of it in normal times. However, if you just continually throw toxins at it day after day after day then there comes a point when it just breaks down and there are only 2 ways out…transplant or death. As there is no transplant to another planet available (and even if there was, should it make a difference?) we and everything else only have one way to go if we don’t stop our toxic diet. And the doctor has been telling us for a long long time that we need to start looking after ourselves better.
Another Video by Michael Greenwell
PG: Okay, what can we do to start looking after ourselves better?
MG: Ideal world or right here right now?
PG: A little of both?
MG: On these issues the public are way ahead of the politicians. We have to change first. We can’t wait for them because we don’t have enough time left. That isn’t to say we should let them off the hook either. Having said that, consumer choices sometimes seem like the difference with voting Tory or Labour or Democrat or Republican. Like coke and diet coke. Essentially it is like choosing to be shot in the head 5 times or shot in the head 4 times. So if there is something to be done in the field of consumption (did you know that that is what they used to call Tuberculosis?) then the choice is not really between this thing and another supposedly more ethical thing. It is rather between this thing and nothing or repairing the old thing instead of throwing it away. Use and buy LESS is the message…instead of use and buy different, even it is tougher than choosing one thing or the other to consume. Buy less stuff, use less power. LESS is a very difficult message to transmit because everywhere we look we see the message MORE on every billboard, TV screen and in every newspaper and magazine. This is at least something practical we can do to reduce the damage. Ideally, we could realize that we are a species that is capable of improving our surroundings and work out why we seem so often to do the exact opposite. Like what I am trying to do with Exit Stage Right…. the first step is seeing that you have a serious problem.
PG: Where can readers find your work on the Web?