Mermaids would be mammals


If mermaids were real, would they be mammals or fish? This exact question came up after a lengthy discussion in my AP Environmental Science class about how whales evolved from land mammals who hunted in the ocean for food. 

In my humble opinion, mermaids would most definitely be mammals. The requirements to be classified as a mammal include having fur/hair, mammary glands, complex brains, warm blood, and their offspring must be born alive. When I think of a mermaid, I think of a creature with the torso and head of a human and the tail of an aquatic species. This would automatically give mermaids the first three qualifications, as all humans have these as well. When it comes to the other two, however, things get tricky. 

I believe that mermaids would be, more than likely, warm blooded. Other sea mammals such as dolphins and whales have warm blood. Some fish even have the ability to warm certain parts of their body by using their blood. If humanoid aquatic creatures can evolve to have the body of a human from the waist up, I don’t think it would be an exaggeration to say that they could evolve to have warm blood as well. 

On the subject of giving birth to live offspring, all I can say is, have you ever seen a mermaid egg? No? Case closed. 

If you’re not entirely convinced. Mermaid tails move on a vertical axis to propel themselves in the water, just like their dolphin and whale friends. Fish tails move on a horizontal axis. Therefore, mermaids are not fish. 

This may seem like an irrelevant debate, and not something that should be at the top of my mind after a day full of learning about evolution and adaptation. 

That, however, is the whole point. 

For some reason, when it comes to talking about environmental issues or topics, the most inane debates come to the forefront. What came first, the chicken or the egg? What would win in a fight, a shark or a bear? It is strange that this is where the human mind is drawn to when we think of animals, nature, and the environment. 

Questions and debates such as these undermine and distract from the real issues concerning our environment today. 

The Earth is getting warmer. That’s a fact. As humans, we are pumping more and more carbon dioxide and methane into the atmosphere, worsening the greenhouse effect. We are crippling the Earth’s life-support systems, and before long it will get to the point where humans can no longer dig themselves out of the deep hole we have created.

I would argue that environmental policy is just as important, if not more so, than economic policy. 

— Elizabeth Long

A mentality that is far too prevalent in American society is that environmental issues “aren’t our problem” or that they are outweighed by other issues such as the economy and inflation. 

I would argue that environmental policy is just as important, if not more so, than economic policy.

When open resources such as ocean-based fisheries are overused and the fish industry collapses, hundreds of thousands of people are out of jobs. When forests are clear cut and the logging industry collapses, supply decreases and prices go up. When rising global temperatures increase the severity of tropical storms and entire towns are wiped out due to flooding, people are left homeless and jobless. 

Environmental issues are most definitely human issues, and I am frightened by the fact that not everybody looks at it this way. 

I worry about the future when I look at those around me. Some students next to me in class have no problem buying into the consumerist fast fashion that adds millions of pounds of textiles into dumps every year. Some of my family members have no problem throwing their plastic cups out of the window on car rides. Some of the people I pass while walking down the street have no problem voting for politicians who will take on a massive deregulatory effort to rollback any and all progress we have made over the years when it comes to environmental protection and regulation. 

While I don’t claim to be the most environmentally friendly individual out there, and I still have a rather large ecological footprint, I at least recognize that I am part of the problem. 

Nobody wants to take responsibility for our one true shared resource, the Earth. It will no doubt bounce back, as it has many times before, but we as humans just won’t be around to see it. We are slowly killing off our own species, and taking the rest down with us. 

Although quite a few environmental scientists say we are reaching the ecological tipping point, or the point of no return, I am still optimistic that if the U.S. and other countries with high ecological footprints create greater environmental protection policies and resource regulation, the grandchildren of myself and my peers may live to see a world with coral reefs and polar bears. 

Environmental policy and a greater appreciation for the world around us will, hopefully, be the saving grace of the human race.