ON YOUR LIST OF ENVIRONMENTAL HEROES AND VILLAINS?
American Film Institute ranks the top 100 heroes and villains in movies.
I decided to rank the world's animals in terms of heroes and villains.
My species list of good guys and bad guys is based on whether their
existence and activities are beneficial or detrimental to humans. Below
are my rankings.
What species can possibly compete with the one that has single-handedly
been responsible for all environmentally positive advances through programs
and legislation that benefit humans? The Endangered Species Act, national
and state park systems, and the Clean Water Act are but a few examples.
First class hero.
How could anyone rank man's best friend as anything other than the greatest
species on earth in terms of making humans their top priority? Top rate
farm animals: Without the relentless (albeit not necessarily enthusiastic)
assistance of the team of heroes that includes the domestic horse, chicken,
cow, mule, goat, and sheep to human welfare through countless chores
and products, we would never have achieved our current level of civilization.
rats and mice: No pair of species has done more for the health of mankind
than these two through the testing of medicines, foods, and other products
before humans use them.
cats: Although cats have detractors, they deserve credit for having
done more good than harm for humans. Those who are devotees and human
servants of cats adore them and derive much pleasure and psychological
support from them, sometimes even forming mystical bonds with these
will agree about who should be on the animal hero list or what the order
should be. Others that might be included for one reason or another could
be honeybees, dolphins, bald eagles, salmon and butterflies.
Who could argue that the greatest villain to mankind throughout history
has been Man himself? Humans have caused untold destruction to the natural
world by polluting air, soil, and water on a global scale and driving
countless species of plants and animals to extinction. Clearly, humans
get the top villain spot.
rat: Wild Norway rats get no kudos for anything. They are sadly lacking
in the good looks department and they transport fleas that carry bubonic
plague. Rats are the consummate invasive species, immigrating throughout
the world for centuries as unwanted stowaways on ships. Ecologically,
Norway rats have driven many native species to extinction.
By some estimates, mosquitoes are responsible for more human deaths
than any other species on earth, principally as a vector for malaria,
yellow fever, West Nile virus, and other diseases that kill more than
a million people a year. The annual impact of mosquitoes on humans,
domestic animals, and wildlife is staggering. Plus, they are just plain
These unsavory creatures are primarily a psychological nuisance inside
a house and qualify as villains simply because no one likes them.
Although not attacking humans directly, the intentional or accidental
introduction of some exotic species to an area can be devastating. Rankings
in this category could be extended to numerous other species but the
mongoose certainly qualifies. Their poorly planned introduction to Jamaica,
Hawaii, and other island habitats has resulted in the decline and in
some cases extinction of many native species, reducing the quality of
life for people who enjoy the natural world.
would include house cats that are allowed outdoors as environmental
villains due to their detrimental impact on small wildlife. Sharks,
snakes, grizzly bears, and predatory cats are not included in my animal
villain list. Human deaths attributable to them are trivial compared
to other causes of human mortality.
As a classroom
exercise or just a fun parlor game, putting such lists together, comparing
them, and debating the order can offer insights into how we view the
natural world and the role of humans in it.
you have an environmental question or comment, email