Re: Life Duty Death & Denial

Javilk (
17 Sep 1995 07:18:32 GMT

Richard Grant ( wrote:
: 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.

We do not know that for sure. ANd there are numberous arguments that
there is a serious global cooling comming up.

: 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.

And then you give an Excellent analogy of a burning library. It is
well worth considering whether talking or trying to throw the books out
the window is more appropriate.
I, however, would dispute whether the library is "on fire", or if the
attendants are just routinely discarding books to make way for new ones.
Read on.

The question, however, is: Is there more extinction going on in the
world, or more creation of new species. And how relevant is that when
compared with the theory of Punctuated Equilibrium?
Consider, for example, the natira; ice age cycle. During the onset of
an ice age, one may speculate that the available ranges of most animals
became somewhat more restricted. Thus one may speculate that species
occupying adjacent ecological niches, not to mention the same niche, began
to compete harder. This competition would result in massive extinctions.
The converse would also be true -- during the interglacial, there would
be a blossoming of variations into distinct species as the newly available
ecological niches became available.
After a while, however the niches would over fill and competition would
increase, resulting in more and more of the marginal species becoming
This extinction cycle seems to repeat over and over with the glacial
cycles. It is Nature's way of trying many variations on a theme, and
deciding which variations are worthy of further development.

The question then becomes, where on this cycle do we stand at present?
Are WE, of necessity, the villains? Or do we merely suspect that we are
the villains, seeing "evidence" which is the result of something else? (I
might argue we are not powerful enough to be the villains, but I honestly
don't know. It is only my suspicion that we are not even a large cause
of these extinctions.)

Or to put it into the perspective of your "fire"; perhaps there is no
fire. Perhaps it is time (wear and tear, lack of shelf space, aging,
etc.) that slowly destroys the books in the library. The more popular are
reordered and reprinted. Those most often reordered across the world, are
the ones imitated by others. We do not have a big enough library, nor
enough time, to read all the books.
That may be rather unfair, but no one said that Nature was fair. She
likes her experiments. She is not done with them yet.

: 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.

I find it worth talking about. It is an interesting topic, and our
discussions inspire some of us to action. And indeed, it is worth
minimizing our own impact when the effort does not impact us even more.
We too, are a species struggling for survival. Our numbers are small
compared to those of frogs, and miniscule compared with those of insects.
Nature emphasizes the survival of the fittest. Humans are far kinder.
Let us continue to be kind when we must, kinder when we can.

-J- ( -------------------------------------------------
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