Re: Life Duty Death & Denial

Richard Grant (
16 Sep 1995 21:34:09 GMT

Re the greenhouse-gas thread: True, a lot of methane is pumped out
of the guts of cows. But the vast herds of cows doing the pumping are a
human-made phenomenon. In this as in other respects, global warming is
in *no way* a natural phenomenon.

As to extinctions, they are definitely happening. There is no room
for dispute about this. Estimates of how many species are being lost,
and how fast the loss is occurring, differ by an order of magnitude --
the low end being around 15,000 species per year.
If you're inclined *not* to worry about this, you might want to
look at a newly published book by Richard Leakey and Roger S. Lewin
called (I think) THE FIFTH EXTINCTION. They offer a metaphor which I
will borrow here.
You are in a library. The library is filled with precious and
irreplaceable volumes, and the building is on fire. No one really
disputes that the fire is burning. What everyone inside the building
(and we are *all* inside the building) is arguing about are such matters
as, How fast will the fire spread? How serious will the ultimate loss
be? Will we ourselves be caught in the blaze, or will we manage to stay
in the part of the building left standing?
Now, in this situation, what would be the prudent course of action?
Stand around arguing? Try immediately to contain, if not extinguish,
the fire? Wait for further detailed studies of the problem? Conduct
more detailed inventories of the contents of the library? Resign
ourselves to the loss?
That is exactly the sort of question we've got to answer, as a
species, in the next few decades. In a sense we are giving a partial
answer already, by spending our time tossing sophistries back and forth
over Usenet instead of trying to take more meaningful action. But at
least this is better than ignorance and denial, which is what largely
obtains elsewhere.

(.sig) richard grant (e)
(snail) treehouse coleman pond me us 04849 0269