Only One Planet

Biodiversity can be defined as the variety of life in all its forms, levels, combinations and processes, including the varieties of ecosystems, species and their genetic differences.

The Earth is a place rich with the numbers and types of plants and animals. But today it isn't as rich as yesterday.

I quote from the The Union of Concerned Scientists :

"Scientists have become increasingly concerned over the rapid decline of the earth's biodiversity -- the erosion of our natural wealth. Extinction is a natural process, but biologists estimate that human activities have increased the rate of extinction on earth one hundred times or more. Both species and natural habitats are threatened by habitat destruction, such as clearcutting, and by pollution, invasive species, overexploitation, and climate change."

Biodiversity has two important roles:

as a benefit to Mankind in terms of an economic and practical resource. The richness our planet's biodiversity endows Man with an incalculable wealth of potential solutions to his problems. So far we have only scratched the surface of that potential. We cannot even begin to guess what hitherto undiscovered disease cures lie within the tropical rainforests. If we continue to destroy them at our current rate we may forever loose a critical remedy for AIDS, Cancer, etc. without ever suspecting that it existed.
it is an essential condition for the survival of the community of living things on the earth. If we think simply in terms of food chains and the relationships therein we begin to see that the chains are actually extremely complex webs which ultimately link together most, if not all, of the species of an ecosystem and that there are links between the webs of diverse ecosystems. An external pressure applied to one species will affect the populations of its food and its predators and the ripples will spread out through many other species. Take a species out of the web and the effect can be dramatic; remove several species and the entire ecosystem may be endangered.

The first question that must be asked is this: What moral right does man have, as a single species, to eradicate any one other species on the face of our planet? If you like we can equate this question with the moral intra-species question: What right does any single human being have to take the life of another human being? I believe that most right-thinking people with moral scruples would answer: "None!", perhaps with the proviso "unless, to do so would safeguard many other human lives." (Consider the proposition of taking out Hitler in the mid-1930s.)

OK, so how many species have been terminated by man in order to safeguard the world? Answer: None that I know of. How many species have become extinct simply as a byproduct of Man's activities? Answer: All of the species whose extinction has been caused by Man.

For the most part, Mankind seems to have an egocentric viewpoint with regard to the World around him. As a species we seem to imagine that the whole of evolution has simply been a precursor to our own existence, that we are the ultimate creation and that the sum product of four billion years of miraculous development of life on our planet is insignificant when compared to our own importance. From that incredibly arrogant position we stand poised to decimate the biodiversity of our planet. Why?

Well, one thing that I have seen plastered throughout the Internet on the subject of biodiversity is "what is the Dollar value of a single species?" Don't you just love those cuddly economists and their "dollar views"? I wonder what their dollar view is of their own particular lives? I believe it was Lawrence Summers, the Chief Economist in the World Bank in 1991, who put forward the view in an internal memorandum that "dirty" (dangerous and polluting) industries should be "exported" to countries where the value of human life was cheap. He wrote "I think the economic logic behind dumping a load of toxic waste in the lowest wage country is impeccable and we should face up to that." i.e. a poor man's life is less valuable than a rich man's. What a nice man!

It is a sad fact that our World is run by people like Lawrence Summers. People whose only raison d'tre for Man's existence, let alone any other species existence, is the Dollar.

New Scientist 14 June 2002 - The struggle for paradise
New Scientist 02 May 2002 - Human Sprawl Covering the Planet
New Scientist 18 Feb 2002 - Half of Amazon Forest being "Profoundly" Damaged

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This page last updated: 02 June 2002