The penguins are dying, and we’re next

Emperor penguin population in Antarctica can’t be recovered, scientists said

More stories from Rebecca Mennecke


Photo by Zhang Zongtang/Xinhua via the Associated Press

A photo by Zhang Zongtang/Xinhua via the Associated Press, shows emperor penguins hanging out on the ice in 2005.

My mom has always loved penguins. From a penguin Christmas sweater, handmade cross stitch pictures of penguins on the walls of our home all the way to squishy penguin stuffed animals, it isn’t surprising that her love of those fluffy, feathery friends has passed down to me.

It’s heartbreaking to imagine a world where I can’t pass down that love to my own children because the penguins don’t exist. They’ve died out.

This isn’t far from reality, as the second-largest emperor penguin population in Antarctica was almost wiped out in 2016 when the Brunt Ice Shelf collapsed in the Weddell Sea.

When a sea ice shelf collapses too soon, penguins don’t have their swim feathers yet. So if they’re forced to be submerged in water without the proper feathery gear, they’ll drown. And that’s precisely what happened.

Around 14,500 to 25,000 chicks were lost, and their population hasn’t — and won’t — recover, according to the New York Times.

It seems like the penguins know the impending doom. An iceberg is set to “disrupt” the site, so they would have died out anyway, according to the Evening Standard.

And it’s got me wondering how much longer it will be until we care.

Something tells me, as awful as it sounds, we as human beings won’t care until we become the penguins — that is, we face endangerment as they do.

Like a Forbes article discusses, instead of saying “save the planet,” we should really be saying “save the people.”

The Earth won’t really care whether we save it or not. But we should. We’re the ones who will lose out on it. When the animals and creatures that support our ecosystem start dying out, it will drastically affect our way of life.

Eventually, it will prohibit our own ability to sustain life.

But also, it’s awful how we only care about the planet when it directly affects us. Literally thousands of penguins died, and we still get tweets from Donald Trump about how the intense Midwest snow is a sign of how fake climate change is.

No, the sign of climate change we should be listening to is the penguins dying, the Bramble Cay melomys going extinct, monarch butterflies facing endangerment, sea turtles eating plastic garbage and bumblebee populations getting smaller by the day.

I can’t imagine a life without butterflies or turtles. And a life without bees probably wouldn’t exist, because they are a huge contributor to the cross-pollination of plants, which give us food.

Our lives are entwined with the lives of the creatures with whom we share the planet. We need to pay attention to events like the death of these penguins because they’re signs of a troubled Earth.

Climate change is very real, and if we don’t start paying attention to the Earth’s cry for help, we’re going to lose more furry creatures — and maybe someday even ourselves. How long until we say enough is enough?

Mennecke can be reached at [email protected]