Tigers may become extinct in the wild in a decade, according to the World Wildlife Fund. Today, less than 3,200 tigers remain in the wild, down from 100,000 a century ago. These populations are divided into regional sub-species, such as Russia’s Siberian Tiger, of which around a mere 500 remain outside of captivity. Unless drastic preventative measures are taken to end poaching and the loss of habitat, the world’s largest cat species may forever disappear from the natural environment.
The imminent extinction of the tiger has wider implications than the disappearance of one species. It highlights a much wider loss of biological diversity around the planet, what some scientists have described as a sixth, Anthropocene mass-extinction.
The extinction of the tiger and its various geographic sub-species has parallels elsewhere as well. It represent the destructive, homogenizing aspects of modern society. Gone are regional varieties of species and cultures cultivated over hundreds of thousands of years, replaced instead by standards imposed in the last 500 years through colonization and imperialist globalization. ‘Free space’ for both people and animals is increasingly constricted to the point where virtually everything in existence resides in a metaphorical zoo.
Though it is notable that the likely extinction of the tiger and the similar fate of many other species is entirely man-made, this observation doesn’t cut to the heart of the matter. Rather, the fate of the tiger, and of people as well, is inextricably bound to the way in which people have arranged themselves and relate to each other. Cultural values which sought to preserve natural environments have been supplanted by the drive to compete and accumulate at any cost. Social and economic relations based on mutual aid have given way to alienated relations based around exploitation. Commodities, treasured products of others’ labor, have been elevated to the status of worship, and monopoly capital, i.e. imperialism, has been given dominion over the earth. Not just the tiger, but the future of humanity and all living creatures is being martyred on the alter of profit.
Solutions and possibilities to intervene exist, but not within the current socio-economic framework. Rather, a new framework of social and economic relations is needed. Capitalist-imperialism, which has wrapped itself around the world and often champions its own ‘green’ credentials, is suffocating the majority of people trapped under its universal rule, wiping out entire species and altering the very biological systems we all depend on.
The tiger and other large cats have all along been a symbol for people’s, indigenous and national liberation struggles. The species’ demise at the hands of imperialism, a system in which humanity is set against each other and nature, will hardly equal the death of such resistance. Rather, the extinction of the tiger should serve as a call to the masses oppressed under the weight of imperialism, and to genuine progressives throughout the world to rise up, get organized, unite and fight this system which is destroying us all.
Nick Brown is an anti-imperialist writer and social justice organizer from Denver, Colorado.