Thanks to my sister Michelle McIlroy for designing the logo!


Ever since I was a child, I have been very interested in nature and the environment. I have a B.S. degree in wildlife biology, and have worked as a zookeeper, wildlife biologist, and ecologist. I am conducting a brief survey of world leaders, government officials, religious leaders, corporate CEOs, environmental groups, wildlife experts, and others regarding nature and the environment. I am also very interested in religious views, customs, and beliefs from around the world, and the interactions between religion, culture, society, and the environment. This is something I am doing out of personal interest, and is not connected to any group or organization. I have been working on this project since the summer of 2006, and hope to eventually turn it into a book and/or documentary. I am hoping to make this into a global project, with responses from all segments of society. Feel free to contact me directly if you have any questions or comments. If you have not already done so, I hope that you will consider taking part in my project, and please spread the word to anyone you think might be interested! Thanks for stopping by!


July 20, 2006

David Le Maitre

Dr. Natural resources and Environment, CSIR

Today’s Date: 20 July 2006
1. What interaction with an animal and/or nature in your life has had the biggest impact on you?

Two things really. Reading children’s books on natural history when I was pre-teen, particularly Gerald Durrell's books on his collecting trips to Africa which inspired a love of natural environments and of the extraordinary beauty that is there, a beauty that satisfies many longings. This was coupled with an early introduction to Rachel Carson’s "Silent Spring" which I read as a teenager and which opened my eyes to the damage being done to our environments. The second was going on family holidays mainly involving shell collecting along remote beaches along South Africa’s east coast and hiking and camping trips in the mountain areas near Cape Town.

2. Did you have a favorite place in the great outdoors during your childhood?

I guess the beaches and rocky shores of the east coast although the Cederberg Wilderness Area north of Cape Town would have to come a close second.

Now? I love walking in the Jonkershoek valley where I live just a few minutes from the centre of Stellenbosch (about 40 miles from Cape Town). It's truly a beautiful valley and wonderful place to live which is why I chose to raise my children there.

3. As a former zookeeper, I would love to know what your favorite animal is, and why?

My favourite animals are cats, especially the smaller wildcats because of the way they move and their independence. But the leopard would have to rate as number one. There is something about the look in a leopard's eyes which is not there in any other cat I have seen. A wildness, something untamable and unpredictable, more menacing than a lion. I also admire their ability to survive in relatively densely populated areas, often with no-one being aware of their presence.

4. What do you think is the greatest environmental challenge facing us now, and what do you think will be the greatest challenge in the future?

Where to begin? Every environmental issue is connected to every other in our small world. There is no single "magic bullet". I think that two things are key: (a) population growth coupled with (b) the growing inequality of access to resources and wealth between and within countries. The net result is a demand for security which leads to aggression; which, in turn generates social and political instability that feeds the expenditure on "defense" at the expense of meeting real needs. The wealthy get wealthier - depleting a disproportionate amount of resources - and the poor are compelled to use what they can get at levels that they know are not sustainable. The problems we have right now will continue undiminished in the future as long as we continue down the road of depleting our environmental resources and using threats, force and corruption to commandeer what remains. Ultimately I think it comes down to fear and greed - both make people hold on to what they have rather than share.

Most people with an environmental awareness can grasp that a simpler lifestyle can be more satisfying. Most also grasp that there are important dimensions to life which feed the human spirit. I have been encouraged that an American like Barbara Kingsolvers can write essays like those in her book "Small Wonder" which show that she grasps these points. But persuading the bulk of humanity that change is needed and needs to happen soon is going to be difficult. I believe that recent studies such as the Millennium Ecosystem Assessment have clearly shown us that we live on a finite globe with finite resources, and that we are making a serious mess of our life support systems with, seemingly, no thought to the consequences for future generations - our children and children's children. We cannot go on like we are, but changing course will not happen easily or overnight. As a scientist and ecologist I can do what I can but we need a fundamental shift in people's expectations from life and their value systems. I am not sure how to achieve that. I am afraid that Michael Crichton is taken far more seriously than Jared Diamond, Tim Flannery or Al Gore.

5. If you could give everyone one piece of advice regarding the environment and our natural resources, what would it be?

Take time out to stop and think about your life and the way you live. Ask yourself: How much electricity and fuel do I use? How much time do I spend behind the wheel of a car? How much local food do I eat? How much waste do I generate? How much do I spend on things I do not really need? How much time do I spend doing simple things like taking a walk? Caring for or helping someone? Doing the things I believe I really should be doing? How much do all the things I do really add to my quality of life?

You can make a difference by changing the way you live and by explaining to your friends why you have decided to change. If you change two other people's way of life and they each change two others, it will soon change everyone. At the same time you can take what you have to spare and share it with someone or some group that will share it with someone whose need is greater than yours.

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