Dilettante 19: Backstage at the Zoo

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Twenty years ago this week was the first and last time we went to the San Francisco Zoo. True to form, we only went because they gave us backstage passes.

The debate about zoos will probably rage on until there are no more zoos, but historically, they’re much more of a humane place for animals to be imprisoned than they were even in the ‘90s when this column entry for the Bay Guardian was written. (Not roadside zoos; those aren’t so great overall.)

Far more concerning is the World Wildlife Federation’s report that humanity has wiped out 60% of all wildlife since 1970. You read that correctly: SIXTY PERCENT OF THE WILDLIFE THAT CALLED THIS PLANET HOME HAS BEEN WIPED OFF THE FACE OF IT SINCE I WAS BORN.

“This is far more than just being about losing the wonders of nature, desperately sad though that is,” he said. “This is actually now jeopardising the future of people. Nature is not a ‘nice to have’ – it is our life-support system.”

Even people who are not fans of zoos have to admit we may need them in case a catastrophic failure of climate change occurs halfway across the globe and we need to clone the remaining population of some animal in order to prevent extinction. Yep that’s where we’re at, 2018.

It’s hard knowing as a GenXer that we have been on this path and that we’re powerless to stop some of it. Mainly pollution and litter and the unmitigated spread of asphalt and box buildings where wildlife habitat used to be, all over the world.

We can find some solutions in this 2018 Living Planet Report PDF from the World Wildlife Org. So let’s review their top findings, leave small footprints, and go out and enjoy nature and maybe even find ways to defend it. OK ok.


Click through to read “The New Zoo Review,” originally published in the SF Bay Guardian on July 28, 1998.

This is the 19th entry in my “twenty years ago this week” project from when I was a nightlife columnist at the Bay Guardian, once the country’s largest family-owned weekly newspaper. These “Dilettante” clips, compiled on my portfolio page, create a serial portrait of San Francisco culture at the turn of the century (1997-2001).

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