Visitor Counter

hitwebcounter web counter
Visitors Since Blog Created in March 2010

Click Below to:

Add Blog to Favorites

Grizzly bears, black bears, wolves, coyotes, cougars/ mountain lions,bobcats, wolverines, lynx, foxes, fishers and martens are the suite of carnivores that originally inhabited North America after the Pleistocene extinctions. This site invites research, commentary, point/counterpoint on that suite of native animals (predator and prey) that inhabited The Americas circa 1500-at the initial point of European exploration and subsequent colonization. Landscape ecology, journal accounts of explorers and frontiersmen, genetic evaluations of museum animals, peer reviewed 20th and 21st century research on various aspects of our "Wild America" as well as subjective commentary from expert and layman alike. All of the above being revealed and discussed with the underlying goal of one day seeing our Continent rewilded.....Where big enough swaths of open space exist with connective corridors to other large forest, meadow, mountain, valley, prairie, desert and chaparral wildlands.....Thereby enabling all of our historic fauna, including man, to live in a sustainable and healthy environment. - Blogger Rick

Subscribe via email to get updates

Enter your email address:

Receive New Posting Alerts

(A Maximum of One Alert Per Day)

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Richard Conniff is a contributing NY Times opinion writer and the author of “The Species Seekers: Heroes, Fools, and the Mad Pursuit of Life on Earth..............He writes extensively about wildlife and in todays NY Times he offers the following oh-so-simple, spot-on and poignant clarion call for optimum biodiversity on earth----------"We act as though animals matter only when they benefit humans"....................."Wildlife is and should be useless in the same way art, music, poetry and even sports are useless"................. "They are useless in the sense that they do nothing more than raise our spirits, make us laugh or cry, frighten, disturb and delight us".......... "They connect us not just to what’s weird, different, other, but to a world where we humans do not matter nearly as much as we like to think"........... "And that should be enough"

, copy and paste this URL into your browser

Useless Creatures

I mostly write about wildlife. So

 here is how it typically happens
 for me: A study comes out 
indicating that species x, y and
 z are in imminent danger of
 extinction, or that some major
 bioregion of the planet is being 
sucked down into the abyss. And
 it’s my job to convince people
 that they should care, even as
 they are racing to catch the 7:10
 train, or wondering if they’ll be
 able to pay this month’s (or last
 month’s) rent.This article
contains no useful information
. Zero. Nada. Nothing. If
 usefulness is your criterion for
 reading, thank you very much
for your time and goodbye, we
have nothing more to say. The
 truth is that I am bored to tears
by usefulness. I am bored, more
 precisely, of pretending
usefulness is the thing that
 really matters.
My usual strategy is to trot out
 a list of ways even the mos
t obscure species can prove
unexpectedly, yes, useful. The
first effective treatment that
 turned H.I.V. from a death
sentence into a manageable
condition? Inspired by the 
biochemistry of a nondescript
 Caribbean sponge. The ACE
inhibitors that are currently
among our most effective
 treatments for cardiovascular
 disease (and which have lately
been proposed as a treatment
 for Ebola)? Developed by
 studying the venom of the
 fer-de-lance, a deadly snake
 found from Mexico to
 northern South America.
The new medical bandage
that’s gentle enough for the
delicate skin of newborns
and the elderly? Modeled
on the silk of spider webs.
Every time I begin this line
of argument, though, I get
the queasy feeling that I am
perpetuating a fallacy. It’s
 not that I’m telling lies;
 these examples are entirely
 real. But given, for instance,
 that three-quarters of our
farm crops depend on insect
pollinators, or that more than
2.6 billion people rely directly
on seafood for protein, it
seems a little obvious to be
 reminding people that wildlife
 can be useful, or, more to the
 point, that human survival
depends on wildlife. Without
saying so out loud, the
argument also implies that
animals matter only because
they benefit humans, or
because just possibly, at some
 unknowable point in the future,
 they might benefit humans.
You don’t have to look too far
 to see how silly this can get.
In truth, I don’t have to look
at all, because university
 press offices fill my inbox
with examples every day: The
Harvard scientists who hope
their study of cuttlefish skin
will “inspire improved protective
 camouflage for soldiers on the
 battlefield.” The Berkeley team
 that thinks studying the 
genetics of blubber-eating
 polar bears could help us learn
 to live with our bacon-wrapped,
 wide-load lifestyle. And the
wonderful folks at Nanyang
Technological University, in
 Singapore, who believe
Squid sucker ring teeth 
material could aid 
reconstructive surgery, serve
 as eco-packaging.” (And you
thought they were good only
for calamari.)
I don’t entirely blame the
scientists. Their research often
depends on taxpayer funding,
 and their dreams are haunted
 by the ghost of United States
Senator William Proxmire’s 
Golden Fleece Award. That
award garnered headlines by
ridiculing outlandish-seeming
items in the federal budget, and
 animal behavior studies were a
 juicy target. So now people
 doing that kind of research all
feel obliged to imply that they
are two steps away from a cure
 for the common cold. No basic
 research here, Senator, sir, no
idle curiosity. Useful “R” Us.
(They also delight in pointing
 out that one of Mr. Proxmire’s
 targets — a $250,000
 investigation into the sex life
of the screwworm fly — has
yielded $20 billion in benefits
to American cattle farmers by
 enabling control of a major
 insect pest.)

CImprobably, wildlife
Conservationists now also
 often hear the call of the
 useful. Along with a large
contingent of eco-finance
bureaucrats, they try to save
threatened habitats by
 reminding nearby
communities of all the
benefits they derive from
keeping these habitats intact
. Forests, meadows and
marshes prevent floods,
 supply clean water, provide
habitat for species that
pollinate crops, put oxygen
 into the atmosphere and
 take carbon out, and
 otherwise make themselves
 useful. In some cases,
 conservation groups or
 other interested parties
actually put down cash for
 these ecosystem services
— paying countries, for
 instance, to maintain forests
as a form of carbon
 sequestration. The argument,
 in essence, is that we can
 persuade people to save
nature by making it possible
 for them to sell it. They can
take nature to the bank, or at
 least to the local grocery. They
 can monetize it. (The new
 revised version of Genesis now
says, “God made the wild animals
 according to their kinds, and he
 said, ‘Let them be fungible.’ ”)
I understand the logic, or at least
the desperation, that drives
conservationists to this horrible
 idea. It may seem like the only
way to keep what’s left of the
natural world from being plowed
 under by unstoppable human
expansion and by our insatiable
appetite for what appears to be
useful. But usefulness is precisely
 the argument other people put
 forward to justify destroying or
displacing wildlife, and they
generally bring a larger and
 more persuasive kind of green
 to the argument. Nothing you
can say about 100 acres in the
New Jersey Meadowlands will
ever add up for a politician who
thinks a new shopping mall will
mean more jobs for local voters
 (and contributions to his
 campaign war chest). Nothing
 you can say about the value of
rhinos for ecotourism in South
Africa will ever matter to a wildlife
 trafficker who can sell their horns
 for $30,000 a pound in Vietnam.
Finally, there is the unavoidable
 problem that most wildlife species
 — honey badgers, blobfish, blue-
footed boobies, red-tailed hawks,
monarch butterflies, hellbenders
— are always going to be “useless,”
 or occasionally annoying, from a
 human perspective. And even
when they do turn out, by some
 quirk, to be useful, that’s typically
 incidental to what makes them
interesting. Cuttlefish do not
 fascinate because their skin may
 suggest new forms of military
 camouflage, but because of the
fantastic light shows tha
t sometimes play across their
 flanks. Spider web silk doesn’t
intrigue because somebody can
 turn it into bandages, but because
 of the astonishing things spiders
 can do with it — stringing a line
 across a stream and running
trotlines down the surface to catch
 water striders, for instance, or
 (in the case of the species named
mastophora dizzydeani) flinging a
 ball of silk on a thread like a spitball
 to snag moths out of the air.
Wildlife is and should be useless in
 the same way art, music, poetry and
 even sports are useless. They are
 useless in the sense that they do
nothing more than raise our spirits,
 make us laugh or cry, frighten,
disturb and delight us. They
connect us not just to what’s
 weird, different, other, but to a
world where we humans do not
 matter nearly as much as we
like to think.
And that should be enough.
Richard Conniff is a contributing
 opinion writer and the author of 
“The Species Seekers: Heroes, 
Fools, and the Mad Pursuit of
 Life on Earth.”

No comments: