March 30, 2012

Happy Friday. Cooler here today after a few days with temps up to about 50. Temp currently is 17 with some clouds.

I just read a short book called “The End of the Wild,” by Jeffrey Meyers, that should be required reading before you can vote. I read it twice before. It’s just 90 pages, really a longish magazine piece, but it is clearly written and makes a devastating case that most of the varieties of animal and plant life currently in existence will become extinct over the next few hundred years as humans wreak more and more havoc on natural systems. The life that survives (assuming we don’t blow ourselves up before then) will consist of “weedy species” that thrive near the disturbances of man: robins, pigeons, mallards, starlings, house sparrows, raccoons, skunks, foxes, coyotes, rats, dandelions, vetch, milfoil, cheat grass.

Some of the weedy species will be alien species to the area they come to dominate. The US currently has an estimated 200,000 species of plants that are not native to North America. With the imports came multiple bugs like the Mediterranean fruit fly and assorted beetles. Other alien species include animals brought in as pets and then released into the wild (house sparrow, starling, assorted fish, snakes, and lizards).

Meanwhile, so-called relic species that inhabit narrow niches will go extinct as their habitat is destroyed or compromised by human development (Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve in Costa Rica, the Monarch Butterfly Bioreserve in Mexico, the African savanna, assorted wetlands destroyed by oil spills and development, etc.). Iconic species like lions, elephants, rhinos, giraffes, zebras, hippos, and a few apes will live on in zoos but will be extirpated in the wild as their habitat shrinks and they are killed to protect livestock or for meat or for sport.

The current human population of the earth is nearing three times the number alive when I was born. This population explosion is the single greatest threat to life on earth, yet many people think there should be lots more of us. Humans are the ultimate alien species. We go everywhere and trash everything. Future generations, if there are any, will decry the stupidity and greed and sheer destructiveness of 19th-21st century humans. Meyers describes the impending doom of most animal species clearly and forcefully with telling examples. He recommends that we spend on research and conservation efforts a fraction of what we spend on military armaments. That is unlikely to happen. Spending on quality of life (conservation, health care) is a very low priority, while spending on weapons is a top priority. Humans are tribal and have a strong attachment to aggression and domination.

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