Just recently, in 2012, I made the trip to China with Earthwatch so I could learn first hand from the scientist who are battling against time to save giant pandas from extinction. To my horror, I saw an expansion of growth moving closer and closer into the last possible piece of dwindling habitat where the pandas now live. I realized the exact same thing was happening in China that our country went through during our big expansion after WWII.
And what has come out of this quest for bigger & fancier goodies? Our country is continuously fighting amongst itself to 'fix' the consequences of our desires to have more of everything. High rates of diseases, deaths & birth defects in children and adults as a result of dangerous chemicals and pollution that infiltrate not only our environment but the food chain as well. Vanishing species and resources. The list goes on to a point now to where we are dependent on other countries and their resources to keep up with our needs. Battles wage during elections for and against more laws and protections for the environment and mankind. Progress has its ugly side. If only we had thought things through a little better maybe?
In China giant pandas have over the course of many, many years been forced to migrate away from the growth of human pressure to a region high up into the mountains that rise above the clouds. It was like taking a step back in time, when I arrived in the town of Ya'an. The people that have lived in this region for centuries were primarily farmers who have carved out parts of the mountain to grow their crops, that they lived on and exchanged with each other.
I can only imagine that when the giant pandas finally reached the mountain tops of SW China, they thought they would be safe from human intervention, because believe me it is journey in itself to reach it. Unfortunately, technology has found a way to conquer the barriers like mountains and rivers that protect what is considered a complex ecosystem with its many plant and animal species that live there.
It's the same everywhere on this planet and unless we can as humans awaken to the fact that we need to find a better balance in our desires to have more of everything, not only will the giant pandas disappear from this planet but so will we.
This was the sentiment behind the video I just created a couple of days ago, 'Reaching Out'. Some people didn't like the video because it was so 'down', 'hard to believe the outcome', and so on.
Hey, nobody loves a happy, feel good ending to a story as I do, and I used to make alot of those 'happy, feel good' panda videos myself and will continue to share the wonderful antics of this quiet and comical bear.
But lets face reality. Let's not behave like the metaphor that is commonly used, Someone “hiding their head in the sand, like an ostrich” is said to be foolishly ignoring their problem, while hoping it will magically vanish.
It's time to affect change for a more balanced lifestyle around the world!
By Seth Doane
"It makes our job harder, because people tend to think that the problem is solved," she says. "Humans really think that we can fix everything with technology."
Bexell warns that the panda's natural habitat -- bamboo-filled, alpine forests in China -- continues to be destroyed to build the roads and factories that feed the world's desire for cheap goods manufactured here.
"The hard battle now is changing human behavior, and if we can't change human behavior, all of this was a waste of time," she says.
Bexell thinks that if humans continue consuming in the way we do, it's the end of the pandas.
Asked if she believes that view is alarmist, she replies, "Yeah, sure, that's fine -- prove me wrong. I so want to be proven wrong. I dream about being proven wrong."
On this day, she stressed to American high school students that their habits can impact a panda's habitat.
People working at the Chengdu Research Base in China committed themselves to raising awareness about and saving the endangered species.
"So to lose such a big part of your country and your heritage and what you stand for, I think it's really important to preserve that and to make sure that they stay around," she says.
It's believed 1,600 pandas live in the wild today. There were nearly 2,500 in the mid-1970s. The Chinese government has set up more than 60 nature preserves to try to protect the remaining pandas.
"I think the hard thing that every government has to balance is the demands of their people -- more mouths to feed, more bodies to clothe, more bodies to put in a house ... and environmental protection," Bexell says.
That balance is not tipping in the panda's favor, despite the promise and all the attention each birth receives.© 2013 CBS Interactive Inc. All Rights Reserved.