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.
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