Commentary on Extinction

The following is a copy of an email response I sent to a friend recently.  She has read the book I loaned her, The Sixth Extinction, and was encouraging me to watch the Discovery Channel documentary to be shown this coming Wednesday, December 2nd on the same topic.  Sorry, I’m not sure of the time.

I saw the advertisements for it on the national news tonight.  I have formed the following opinions over the last few years:

1)  The world’s greatest problem (and ours too!) is human population.  I’m dubious we can accomplish it in time or that there will be the motivation necessary to do so, but I believe human numbers need to be reduced dramatically with remaining individuals having learned how to live in greater balance with the Earth.
2)  As pointed out in the book, I also believe (in addition to hastening the extinction of other living things) that most humans don’t realize we are collectively fouling our own nest.  Sounds a little perverse perhaps, but I take some comfort in knowing that the world has survived similar cataclysms and recovered. In other words, it will take some time, but the world will once again proliferate with different organisms when humans aren’t around any longer (or in lesser numbers). Of course, that comforting thought doesn’t negate my sadness at the wholesale destruction my species has wrought in the name of well-being for itself.
3)  It seems to me that the primary objective of any life form is to A) reproduce itself, and B) within the means that organism is capable, to increase its numbers at the expense of others (symbiotic relationships excepted).  So, while it’s not a great excuse, we’re only doing what any other species would do if it were so capable.  But this realization alone only points to the fact that, if we are so aware, what are we going to do about it?  There are some who are trying, some of us who put lip service to the thought of conservation, etc., but I’m afraid that the preponderance of humans are preoccupied with their own survival; or simply don’t understand that the loss of any specie does have some deleterious effect on the survivors. The sardonic view is to think that as long as I can get in my air conditioned car, obtain fuel for it, buy copious amounts of food whenever I want, no such loss affects me.  But I feel that the domino effect of exponentially increasing extinction affects all remaining occupants.  I am not a complete pessimist, but I tend to lean toward the belief that it is too late for us.  I witness the continuing development of homes, businesses, roads, etc. in this area and am disheartened.  I now see gaps in the horizon where there were once trees and I miss them.   I would love to see the sky “blackened from horizon to horizon” with the now extinct passenger pigeon.  I would love to live in a world where clean water was abundant.
But one day it will be so again.  I live in the hope of being able to be a part of it.

6 thoughts on “Commentary on Extinction

  1. I’m in complete agreement, Doug. Very well said. Second daughter thinks one way we can all help is to stop eating meat. I wonder if anything will come from the Climate meeting in Paris???

    • A significant obstacle to progress on this matter is gaining some sort of consensus on what to do. On a positive note, it is at least some good news that there is, at least, an actual meeting on the topic. From an environmental perspective, there is much merit to avoiding meat due to the amount of energy required to produce a pound of flesh. Not to mention the fact that much of our meat production is centered on methods that are avoidably traumatic and unhealthy for the animals involved. In that specific regard, I’ve not been of much help myself. However, a line from an article in National Geographic that I read a few years ago, continues to haunt me. In a study of factors associated with human longevity, one of the primary observations was to (mostly) avoid meat consumption, even fish.

  2. Doug, my brilliant friend, if only more people in the world could read this essay and take it to heart– this is what popped in my head when I first read it this morning. It offers so much truth and should be an eye opener for many. I have never read this book but have added to my to read list, and I definitely will watch that show tomorrow night. (When are you going to write a book–will you ever take the time.) Bless you. Annel.

  3. It’s hard to think about preservation of the environment when there’s a more immediate threat to one’s family and/or nation. Mankind has never been very good at multi-tasking when the primary goal is survival. I agree with the writer that, as a species, we’re much better at seeing to our comfort than taking care of our collective home. And while I also deplore the degradation of our planet, it’s unplanned destruction proceeds more slowly than the planned demise of our culture at the hands of Muslim extremists. I have no faith, whatsoever, in our current leadership’s ability to address either problem adequately or even appropriately.

    • No doubt, Josh, that if one feels he or she is looking down the barrel of a gun, that demands immediacy of action in terms of self-preservation. And I wouldn’t debate in this forum, precisely what the challenges are that ALL of humanity faces. For certain, they are profligate. As part of that adjective, despite being the ‘highest’ life form on this planet, we’ve not been very good at maintaining decent relations with our fellow Homo sapiens any more than we’ve been adequately responsible in terms of how we take care of our only home. Engaging others in warfare, regardless of the causes, has exacted a horrific toll on BOTH humans and the environment. I will say that the rate of speed at which we degrade our nest may not be a slower moving threat than the same concerns we feel from any extremist group. In my opinion, no doubt we need to figure out how to get along better as much as it is imperative to treat this planet better. Certainly good leadership is important in addressing any critical issue, but none of us should be absolved of our own individual responsibilities in doing what we can at the grass roots level. Go meatless on Mondays, car pool occasionally, forego paper plates, support organizations that foster care of the environment, and here’s my all time favorite: Shower with a friend!

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