.Least We Can Do: Doing more at COP27

By Ingrid Newkirk

In the 1960s, there was a TV show called A Man Called Shenandoah. A man with amnesia would ride into a town in the American West, take on a problem, solve it and then leave. 

The townspeople would thank him, and he would say, “It was the least I could do.” I never understood that. If that was the least he could do, shouldn’t he have tried to do more? 

This month, lots of “Shenandoahs” have arrived in Sharm El Sheikh and will likely do the least they can do to address the climate catastrophe before moving on.

At COP27, some of the worlds’ most powerful people will hear that the oceans are dying and that we have harmed life in the oceans in many ways, including with factory farm run-off, chemical pollution, trawler fishing, ship collisions, plastic waste, deep-sea drilling, untreated sewage, ocean dumping and naval bombing exercises. 

They will be told that we must act now if we are to save ourselves. That’s key: People will think about taking some action because saving humanity is considered a noble goal—but it will be the least they can do. 

Saving the oceans and their inhabitants is certainly about human survival, but it’s about more than that. Often when someone mentions how bad the situation is, a listener will say, “Yes, I’ve stopped using plastic straws!” But isn’t that the least a person can do? It would be so much better to stop eating fish. 

It’s because of fishing that billions of fish are suffering in hideous ways as they’re hauled out of their aquatic environment to die in agony on their way into human stomachs. 

We can use whatever strengths, talents, personal power and freedom we possess to go far beyond the least we can do, to figure out the most we can do and do it.  

Ingrid Newkirk is the founder and president of People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) and author of ‘Animalkind.’

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