Re: Life Duty Death & Denial

Warrl kyree Tale'sedrin (
Mon, 25 Sep 1995 04:57:16 GMT

"Marty G. Price" <mprice@Ra.MsState.Edu> wrote:
>However, that doesn't answer the other questions: the sort of extensive
>patterns of cutting and regrowth that have marked our little odyssey
>across the North American continent have had a negative impact on
>biodiversity such as "natural" (yes, we're part of nature too, but
>exclude us here) cycles of destruction and regrowth appear not to have.

The majority of known extinctions in North America have occurred among
the larger species which are more vulnerable anyway. Best evidence
suggests that they were begun by those in-touch-with-nature pagans,
the American Indians, who took out the saber-tooth cat, the giant
ground sloth, and the American horse. The saber-tooth cat, at least,
it would be *really* interesting to see in the wild, as there is
evidence suggesting that this variety of cat was the most intelligent
and most communal of all known cat varieties -- much more so than the

While the extinction of *any* species carries *some* regret, I for one
cannot hold much sympathy for a species that would be extincted by a
minor change in the course of a river -- regardless of why the course
changes. Nor can I hold much sympathy for a quite unusual variety of
cockroach which developed in New York City, so well adapted to
insecticides that it could not reproduce without DDT. (And is now
extinct.) Nor, for that matter, do I long mourn the smallpox virus.

>Our incursions into the Amazon basin are reducing the biodiversity of
>that region and possibly causing permanent changes in the biological
>map of the region.

At the beginning of *any* discussion of the Amazon, it is necessary to
make one thing clear:

*WE* are not directly doing *anything* there. *WE* can perhaps
influence what is done there, but we cannot *control* it.

Aside from that, I'll take seriously any approach to the problem which
reflects reality.

First, the amount of jungle being cleared for cattle grazing is
miniscule. Normally there is a multi-step process spanning several
years before the land is turned over to cattle. And that happens
because by then the land is basically useless for any other purpose.
(It'd be great for building cities on -- but there's no current need
for that many cities in that area.)

Second, since the land in question is virtually all owned by the
Brazilian government, and is being used in accordance with the
dictates of that government, it is less than obvious that turning the
land over to the government would contribute to a solution.

>Population pressures and bad farming practices are and have long been
>creating very unpleasant patterns of erosion in India, Nepal, etc. as well
>as contributing to the expansion of the Sahara.

Yep. What's stopping us from, at the least, addressing the bad
farming processes? We could double the effective grain production of
most of Somalia, by distributing plastic garbage cans with lids that
seal. Several other approaches, similarly easy, can make dramatic
differences. It was observed in the 1970s that if India would
universally adopt farming practices that had been *abandoned* in Japan
500 years earlier, because they weren't sufficiently effective, India
would become not only self-sufficient in food, but a major food
exporter. In Japan they don't abuse and waste their farmland -- too
little of it, they know quite well that they can't afford to.

Unfortunately, distributing garbage cans doesn't create more power for
a central government. On the contrary, by decreasing the likelihood
that emergency aid will be needed, it *decreases* government
authority. Therefore it isn't popular among would-be dictators -- and
most third-world countries are led by dictators, and their major
domestic opposition consists of would-be dictators.

>We change that which we touch. If you tell me our changes are less
>destructive than I imagine, I can only politely disagree. Yes, you are
>right, the Earth will regenerate, and I as well as you have seen evidence
>of its regenerative powers.

>If, however, you tell me we have no need to concern ourselves with the
>environment about us

I tell you no such thing. I do say that 'human impact = evil' is a
rather foolish attitude to take. That while any action involves some
cost, *not* acting also involves some cost. That if we cannot come up
with a reasonable estimate of the value of something, we should not be
at all surprised to see some people acting as if it has infinite value
-- and others as if it has no value; and all we can say for certain is
that both of these extremes are wrong. (But at the same time, that
"less value than this other things" is not the same as "no value".)