[Marxism] Just The Basics

Tony Abdo gojack10 at hotmail.com
Mon Mar 15 13:24:20 MST 2004


Published March 15, 2004 by the Los Angeles Times
One by One, the World Is Becoming a Lonelier Place
by Joshua Reichert

Last month, with little fanfare, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service removed 
two tropical birds, the Mariana mallard and the Guam broadbill, from its 
list of species that are endangered. The birds are extinct, having joined a 
growing list of animals that have disappeared from the face of the Earth.

The announcement that these two birds, which were native to the islands of 
the western Pacific, had vanished forever elicited little attention. Their 
numbers had been declining for decades. And few people, other than the most 
avid bird enthusiasts, even knew what they were or had ever seen them. So 
there will be few who will mark their passing with the same nostalgia or 
sense of loss that might accompany the disappearance of a better known 
species like the snow leopard, the Siberian tiger or the black rhinoceros — 
all on the brink of the same abyss.

The fact that the extinction of these two creatures was virtually a silent 
one is a tragedy. Both were the product of millions of years of evolution. 
Both were connected to a larger network of species that interrelate and 
depend on one another in many ways that still remain a mystery to science. 
And both succumbed to the same types of human- induced pressures that 
threaten so many other animals in this country and elsewhere in the world: 
habitat loss, over-hunting and the introduction of nonnative species against 
which they have little or no defense.

Many would ask why we should care that these two birds are no longer here. 
The answer is that we now know enough about how the world is put together to 
recognize that each species on Earth plays a role in nature. When one 
disappears, it is a harbinger of trouble. Just how or when or if the 
extinction of one species will affect us in any material way is difficult to 
know. However, there are stark examples of how our disregard for other life 
forms has imperiled our own survival.

Take, for example, the case of Easter Island. This remote, barren island in 
the South Pacific, which is best known for its huge, mysterious stone 
statues, was once covered by a subtropical forest. But its Polynesian 
inhabitants eventually deforested the island, driving most of its tree 
species into extinction along with every species of native land bird. With 
no wood available to build boats for fishing, and the soil so depleted that 
crops could not be grown, an estimated 90% of the human inhabitants died of 
starvation.

There are many different reasons why we should rail against extinction. 
Biologically, because each species is part of a larger, complex assemblage 
of living things, we should strive to protect them all, particularly because 
we don't understand how each piece fits with the others. There is also a 
moral reason. It is that Earth's creatures, great and small, are not simply 
here for our benefit but are here with us in the world. As such, we have a 
fundamental responsibility to treat them all with respect and a sense of 
stewardship.

We are clearly failing in this task. There are more than 12,000 species of 
animals and plants that are known to be threatened, 1,816 of which reside in 
the United States. And the list gets longer every year.

>From the earliest days of life, many species have come and gone. To a 
certain extent, extinction is a natural event. Up until modern times, it is 
believed that one to two species per million vanished annually. We are now 
losing them far faster, at a rate that is estimated to be up to 1,000 times 
as high as in the past. Indeed, many scientists believe that by the middle 
of this century an astonishing 25% to 50% of all existing species will be on 
the path to extinction.

We have both a practical and an ethical responsibility to ensure that this 
does not happen. Every species that disappears represents one less strand in 
that remarkably intricate web of life of which we are a part and which 
ultimately sustains us.

There were no bells that tolled the departure of the two Pacific birds. But 
they should have tolled for us, as a sad reminder of what we have lost and 
as a warning for the future.

Joshua Reichert directs the environment division at the Pew Charitable 
Trusts.
Copyright 2004 Los Angeles Times

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