|We cannot continue to exhaust our resources or kill animals that we think inconvenience our lives. I beg, please reflect as you review the words of a well-known biologist and professor of entomology at Harvard University, E. O. Wilson.
The Human Hand, however, is not upon the biological homeostat. There is no way in sight to micromanage the natural ecosystems and the millions of species they contain. That feat might be accomplished by generations to come, but then it will be too late for the ecosystems -- and perhaps for us. I hope this excerpt, published in 1998 concerns you as it does me. Perchance you believe much is improved by now. Almost a decade has passed and we are always making improvements, at least Americans do.
Despite the seemingly bottomless nature of creation, humankind has been chipping away at its diversity, and Earth is destined to become an impoverished planet within a century if present trends continue.
Mass extinctions are being reported with increasing frequency in every part of the world. They include half the freshwater fishes of peninsular Malaysia, ten birds native to Cebu in the Philippines, half the thirty-one tree snails of Oahu, forty-four of the sixty-eight shallow-water mussels of the Tennessee River shoals, as many as ninety plant species growing on the Centinela Ridge in Ecuador, and, in the United States as a whole, about 200 plant species, with another 680 species and races now classified as in danger of extinction.
The main cause is the destruction of natural habitats, especially tropical forests. Close behind, especially on the Hawaiian archipelago and other islands, is the introduction of rats, pigs, beard grass, lantana, and other exotic organisms that out-breed and extirpate native species.
The few thousand biologists worldwide who specialize in diversity are aware that they can witness and report no more than a very small percentage of tile extinctions actually occurring. The reason is that they have facilities to keep track of only a tiny fraction of the millions of species and a sliver of the planet's surface on a yearly basis. They have devised a rule of thumb to characterize the situation: that whenever care fill studies are made of habitats before and after disturbance, extinctions almost always come to light.
The corollary: the great majority of extinctions are never observed. Vast numbers of species are apparently vanishing before they can be discovered and named . . .
The ongoing loss will not be replaced by evolution in any period of time that has meaning for humanity. Extinction is now proceeding thousands of times faster than the production of new species. The average life span of a species and its descendants in past geological eras varied according to group (like molluscs or echinoderms or flowering plants) from about 1 to 10 million years.
During the past 500 million years, there have been five great extinction spasms comparable to the one now being inaugurated by human expansion. The latest, evidently caused by the strike of an asteroid, ended the Age of Reptiles 66 million years ago. In each case, it took more than 10 million years for evolution to replenish completely the bio-diversity lost. And that was in an otherwise undisturbed natural environment. Humanity is now destroying most of the habitats where evolution can occur.
If we think about the news recent weeks, we may realize there is reason to wonder. The bridge in Minneapolis collapsed due neglect. The streets of New York opened up after a great explosion. Equipment, almost a century old could not continue to function as it had; nor can we. Again, I turn to the great scholar, E.O. Wilson. In an interview with acclaimed journalist Bill Moyers, the biologist reminded us how dire the situation is .
Bill Moyers: Why-- but why should we care if the woodpecker goes? I mean, we've lost---how many species have we lost? We don't know how many species we've lost in the millennium.
E.O. Wilson: No. But-- how many species going extinct or becoming very rare do you think it takes before you see something happening? We now know from experiments and theory that the more species you take out of an eco-- you know, an ecosystem like a pond, patch of forest-- a-- little bit of marine shallow environments, the more you take out the less stable it becomes.
It now is less likely-- you have a-- tsunami or you have a-- severe drought or you have a fire, the less likely that that ecosystem, that body of species in that particular environment is going to come back all the way. So, it becomes less stable with fewer species. And then we also know it becomes less productive. In other words, it's not able to produce as many kilograms of new matter from photosynthesis and passage through the ecosystem. It's less productive. It sure is less interesting, though, isn't it? And more than that-- we lose the services of these species.
Bill Moyers: The services of these species.
E.O. Wilson: Yes services of these species to us. Like pollination and water purification?
Bill Moyers: That we get free from nature.
E.O. Wilson: Yeah. Here's an easy way to remember it. We get from nature scot-free, so long as we don't screw it up and destroy it-- approximately the same amount of services as far as you can measure them in dollars as we ourselves produce each year. it was about $30 trillion a year. T. Trillion. And these creatures, they have built in them, in their genes and then in their physiology an endless array of defenses, many of which we could use and we have used, like producing antibiotics we never heard of using chemicals that we never even dreamed existed. And-- so, we have already benefited immensely from wild species in that way. But, you know, let me get to the bottom line as far as I'm concerned. And that is-- isn't it morally wrong to destroy the rest of life, you know, in any way you look at it-- for what it's going to do to human spirit and aesthetics? Or--
Bill Moyers: Are we destroying it?
E.O. Wilson: Well, yes, we are. If we do not abate the various changes we're causing-- climate, habitat destruction-- the-- continuing pollution of major-- river system-- systems and so on we will, by the end of the century, lose or have right at the brink of extinction-- about half the species of plants and animals-- in the world, certainly on the land.
Bill Moyers: Half that we have now?
E.O. Wilson: Yeah, half.
Bill Moyers: Will be gone by the end of the 21st century?
E.O. Wilson: If we don't do something, yeah.
Perhaps, now it is time to take a baby step. Stand in support of the Mother that gave you, me, us life. The environment needs us, as do the wolves. Perhaps more accurately, we need the natural world.
Two petitions are circulating. Each attempts to save a tiny bit of the natural balance already severely altered. The deadline for signatures is August 6, 2007. Each appeal has less than have the necessary inscriptions. Please peruse the text of these pleas and submit your support.
The Bush/Cheney Administration has announced two proposals to jumpstart the killing of hundreds of wolves in the Yellowstone area and elsewhere in the Northern Rockies.
Officials in the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service are now seeking public comment on the agency's proposal to accept Wyoming's disastrous wolf management plan and to give Idaho and Wyoming vast new powers to kill wolves -- even while these magnificent animals remain listed under the Endangered Species Act.
The deadline for comments on these two flawed proposals is Monday, August 6th. Please sign our petition to send your message to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service right now!
I thank you for your consideration and for your comment on the first request. Please ponder a similar plight. Examine the text, and again offer your commitment to restoring our commitment to Mother Earth.
Protect the Gray Wolf From the Bush Administration!I thank you. The wolves will express their gratitude. There life helps to sustain an ecosystem too complex for our understanding. With each pen stroke you help to state, this world and all its inhabitants are important to me. Indeed they are. In ways impossible, to imagine we are all interdependent. Please remember, if we threaten other live forms, we endanger ourselves.
In 1945, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service killed the final living wolf in the western United States, on behalf of the livestock industry. Once abundant over much of North America, the Northern Rocky Mountain Gray Wolf nearly vanished into soulful myths and legends.
Nearly three decades later, the Endangered Species Act was signed into U.S. law. Recognized as an integral part of the rugged Rocky Mountains ecosystem, the Gray Wolf was rushed onto the endangered list. Due to the protections under the Endangered Species Act, the Gray Wolf has been reintroduced successfully in Yellowstone and central Idaho, and has migrated safely from Canada into northwestern Montana.
However, the wolf is in danger -- again.
The Bush Administration plans to allow hundreds of gray wolves to be slaughtered on behalf of the livestock industry -- while the Gray Wolf is still listed under the Endangered Species Act! To seal the deal for the livestock industry, the Administration is also seeking to de-list the Gray Wolf entirely, thus removing all protections for this vital being.
The comment period on whether the Gray Wolf should be protected or not closes August 6. Instead of undoing protections for wolves, we should be guarding them more vigilantly than ever before, and continuing to restore them throughout their former range of wide habitats.
Sign this petition to tell the Bush Administration that you want to see gray wolves fully protected under the Endangered Species Act today.
Sources . . . Wolf Recovery under the Endangered Species Act. U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service.
Is Humanity Suicidal? Resurgence. Originally Published in the New York Times Magazine.
Bill Moyers talks with E.O. Wilson, Public Broadcasting Services. July 6, 2007
Stop the Latest Assault on Our Wolves
Protect the Gray Wolf From the Bush Administration!