Yesterday's Independent had a report which particularly caught my attention: The destruction of Borneo's rainforst (ironically, to produce palm oil, a biofuel) means that Orangutans are expected to be extinct in the wild in ten years.
This is immensely depressing. Orangutans aren't our closest living relative (that distinction goes to the Bonobos), but they're cousins, and you can see it. When you look at one, there's definitely someone looking back. Terry Pratchett, who has worked with the Orangutan Foundation and donates some of the proceeds of his books to Orangutan conservation (its a moral debt to the Librarian), has an amusing story about the reactions of different Great Apes to being given a camera. A Chimpanzee will probably smash it. A Gorilla will look at it curiously and hand it back. An Orangutan will carefully dismantle it, and hand the pieces back with a grin. The reason that Visa ad [video] works so well is precisely because Orangutans are so bloody smart.
(As for Bonobos, if given a camera they would either a) try and hump it; or b) use it to make porn. But they do that with everything...)
A world without Orangutans will be a much poorer place. Unfortunately, there seems to be little we can do about it. Killing our relatives and burning them out of their homes seems to be the price of capitalism - just as it was in Scotland in the nineteenth century...