Ethics of Endangered Species Protection: I. Some Considerations

This is a Wild Earth Guardians lynx map from 199-2007

Starting with the discussion of Extinction on National Forests here, John Persell and I have been discussing the ethics and morality of protecting endangered species. John gets many points with me for seeking common ground through dialogue and is a good model for respectful discourse.

Here’s his original question

“Is it never morally or ethically wrong to let species go extinct in any circumstances, in your personal opinion? Even purposeful eradication? I’m trying to get a sense of where the common ground is if the only barrier to extirpation or extinction is legal. If those wishing to protect the diversity of species that exists or formerly existed across an area cannot appeal to shared values because those values are not in fact shared, legal action (litigation) may be the only tool available, a tool that you generally deem inappropriate for public lands disputes. So where might the common ground be found?”

Here’s my answer and here’s his response. The great thing about a discussion like this is that we can enter deeper into it and go in different directions and there is always time.

As I read his question again, I think it might be morally or ethically wrong in some circumstances and not in others. Here are some things I’d consider and weigh in making any judgment calls.

1) Reality of Differentness: “how distinct are these really?”. Is it generally agreed it is a subspecies or species? Do different measurements lead to different conclusions (say different physical and genetic measures?)

2) Total Number of Critters Black Footed Ferret (once 18?) is a different order of magnitude than, say, Sage Grouse or sugar pine. There is also the related question of “does Canada count?”. If the climate warms and creatures move to Canada, they’re not really extinct are they? Or is extinct relative, like extinct in San Juan County, extinct in Colorado, extinct in the US, and so on…

2) Likelihood of Intervention Efficacyy.How sure are we that our interventions will help? Say, stopping hunting fishers is very likely to boost their populations. But different vegetation interventions with or without fire scenarios? Harder to say. Do we get evidence from different kinds of scientific studies and models? Do they agree? If not, how can we trust which ones? If, say a species is the victim of an infectious disease, should we stop all changes to habitat to make things better for the species when they could potentially all die from the disease anyway? Similarly, if they are sensitive to climate change, we could stop all vegetation manipulation and it might not help.

3) Impacts on People. What are the impacts of the interventions on people? Which people? Will they lose jobs, or will their energy bills go up? Will the jobs/product production be transferred to our northern neighbor or some other country? Will that impact the ecosystem or species there? How? Are their security issues related to our country’s need for certain products (say, energy?).

4) Biological factors. Is this species the end of a rare lineage? (gene conservation) Is this species some kind of “keystone”, e.g. forms burrows that others use? (may take a while for another species to fill the niche and meanwhile other species may also suffer).

What do you all think of these? Do others have other criteria to apply?

33 thoughts on “Ethics of Endangered Species Protection: I. Some Considerations”

  1. Let’s consider freedom. One of the necessities of freedom is a diverse environment that allows for the widest opportunity for individual experience and self-expression. The ESA is to conserve species and the ecosystems that they require and are part of. When we remove species, or allow avoidable extinction to occur, we are diminishing freedom for ourselves and future generations. When we are proactive in trying to save some of the world’s awesome diversity, we practice true conservation and show respect for the freedom of other cultures and, especially, future generations.

    • Jim are we limiting our freedom by trying preserve nature as we see it, instead of accepting that it is ever evolving and we as a specie are part of that evolution?

      • We are limiting our freedom, and that of future generations, by monotonizing our environment, all over the world. Removing components of biodiversity at all levels, genes, species, biotic communities, further monotinizes the world. Future generations will have less variety of opportunity to use, study, enjoy and wonder at the awesome world that once existed and was diminished by us.. JAB

        • Luckily, here in the US, we’re not doing that on public lands. Other countries have much fewer environmental protections than here. I think you are pointing fingers at the wrong people. No one on this blog wants what you are accusing, Jim.

          • Please look more closely at what is happening to, on, our public lands. And just because other countries have been domesticating and despoiling their lands longer that we have, and/or have fewer protections than we have – does not mean that we aren’t heading in the same direction: a domesticated landscape with little real wildness. Moreover, our protections for much of the natural world are being diminished, politically, as evidenced by much of what occurs on the environmental front in Washington and in many state capitols. Jim

        • Jim – the future world may be equally or even more diverse, because of the mixture of organisms from different parts of the world. But it is and will be different from the past.

          We can’t hold it constant or go backwards in time no matter what we do (in general, yes someone could get DNA and restore the passenger pigeon but that is the exception). All we can do is the best we can with what we’ve got, and perhaps we disagree about what “the best we can” is.

          • Sharon: – “Jim – the future world may be equally or even more diverse, because of the mixture of organisms from different parts of the world.”
            One day invasive species will become something to be celebrated as opposed to demonized.

            Sharon: – “But it is and will be different from the past.”
            I don’t think they can live in the future. Their emotions want to turn the cloack back. It’s like listening to people who always like to talk about “The Good’ol Days,” (whatever that was) except you can’t ever bring back the past. In this case when they talk about the environment as being in a “pristine” state, they really have no clue as to what that was really like. They only imagine what it was like. A healthy forest environment prior to European introduction is generally what they are referring to when using the term “pristine.” This leaves the American Indian as some kind of sub-human animal. But I would think a “pristine” environment would more likely contain the long extinct megafauna which really were ecosystem engineers and maintenance providers. Those days are gone and will never be brought back no matter how many PopSci click bait article champion Mammoth clining. And yet ironically it was the ecological Indian that killed off the megafauna. Some of the works from his website suggest he strongly leans towards misanthropy.

    • Jim hits on something that resonates with me: what legacy are we passing on to future generations. Jim mentions below that we as humans often have a sense of wonder about how vast, how diverse, how intricate and intertwined the natural world can be or once was. For me, this is how an interest in preventing species habitat loss and population declines began. We can marvel and feel awe and even find some spiritual nourishment when we experience, explore, and even read or watch films about the diverse landscapes and the forms of life they support. Even now, I have a sense of having missed out on some of those awe-inspiring scenes: endless herds of bison on the plains, swaths of old growth forest that weren’t merely pockets here and there, glaciers not in rapid retreat. But by chance we are born when we are born. What do we do with the time we have, and how do we factor in what we are passing on to future generations?

      Another factor for me in my wrestling with these questions is knowing that we collectively “acquired” these lands and changed them in a short period of time often through much-less-than-honorable means. Doctrine of discovery, broken treaties, forced removals of tribes, purposeful eradication and exploitation of species and habitats…. Knowing that all occurred, should we make efforts to correct, in feasible ways, past ethical and moral errors collectively made as a society?

      • This sounds like excessive hand-wringing about what happened in the last millennium on our public lands, or what happens in other countries, beyond our control. There are site-specific solutions but there is no political will towards restoration, and the high costs to accomplish work on a significant scale. So, I guess we can all watch as our forests die, rot and burn, pretending that doing nothing is the ‘true path’ to restoration of forests that exist right now, instead of desiring an impossible (and irrational) pre-human landscape.

        • I may be a fan of the “prehumen landscape”, it’s interesting, and the plural “landscapes” is more appropriate. But, I agree: much of the past landscapes is gone for good. However, my plea is for recognizing wild landscapes and their continuing evolution. The alternative is domestic landscapes, dominated by us, where species adapt largely to us and our human-centered environments. Domestic landscapes are not in danger. Wild landscapes are. — Several respondents responded positively to my recognition of values that are not consumptive uses. However, I also recognize “use” of wild landscapes. They may be used conservatively without diminishing the roles of natural processes, including continued natural selection. (We can harvest some animals. We may one day be harvesting unique genetic materials.) In the last analysis, the remaining wild areas are the control areas for our “greatest” experiment – which is the rest of the continent. Without them, we do not know what we have done, or sacrificed. Jim

          • Indeed, how do we know what a pre-human landscape looks like, since no one was there? And then, there are also some ‘natural’ weather anomalies in ice core records, in the form of ice ages and climate temperature spikes, unaffected by human effects. I just think it is better if humans ‘craft’ solutions, instead of letting whatever happens, happen. Remember, 84% of all US wildfires are human-caused. That number isn’t likely to diminish. I think we should seriously consider that fact in all future forest decisions.

          • Jim, I don’t know that there was a post-glaciation pre-human landscape in North America. I can’t keep up with the changes in anthropological literature , but I think people followed the retreating glaciers south (??)

            I also think it’s more complicated than “wild areas” and diversity. Plenty of private ranches around where I live are less trammeled than some Wildernesses near urban areas. And I don’t know that anyone has measured which of the many different aspects of biodiversity are better in federal Wilderness than Roadless than general forest acres.

            • 1. I am not referring to landscapes in the early holocene. I am referring to losses of landscapes, such as the tall-grass prairie, in the anthropocene, as it is usually defined. Then there are places that I enjoyed as a young man, not available or much altered in just a few decades. 2. We have lost some species already and many others are already threatened or endangered. Many more are not listed, but regionally extirpated. We have, maybe, one wild bison herd left. Mountain caribou are gone from most of the US Rockies, and struggling in Canada. Lynx? Wolverine? Grizzly bears? Bighorn sheep: Most herds are small, inbreeding and genetically drifting; maintained with frequent and costly human interventions. My original point was simple, we are monotinizing the temperate zone of the continent. Many kinds of experiences become, at first to distant, too expensive for the poorest among us, and eventually gone for all of us. JAB

      • 1 I completely agree about doing our best with the time we have and passing it on to future generations. I get the awe that comes from “what it once was” and the beauty of the natural world. I felt that in a chestnut forest in Minnesota (planted) that looked like much of the southeastern chestnut forests had before the blight. Part of it for me is the historical angle (this is what it was like for our ancestors.. maybe a bit of a glimpse through time) and not so much the “things were great before people messed it up” narrative. Of course, others might say that that stand was unnatural because the settlers planted my experience wasn’t real. Our understanding and appreciation of different aspects of Nature is a human construct.

        Or as David Oates said in his book Paradise Wild:

        “Because I’d like to challenge the way we misapply the “myth of Eden” to the natural world, especially here in North America. You know the story: how the pristine, untouched, virgin Eden got ruined when Europeans showed up: and now it’s all been lost. Eden-grief and nostalgia become the primary feelings we attach to nature.

        Except that this Paradise-continent was already rather heavily “touched” when Columbus got here, and had been for thousands of years. The “virgin land” idea is a weird imposition on a complex, heavily managed human and natural landscape. Nature and human intermixed, layered, strata upon strata.

        Once we recognize that Eden is not “lost” – that we are not trapped on the wrong side of Paradise – that nature is not “ended” – then we can get to work fixing our mistakes. Doing a better job of living as part of the wild, amazing natural world.”

        2. I think what you’re saying about North America is important. But would your attitude toward biodiversity be different if you were working in Switzerland or Gambia or Sri Lanka? I don’t think that mine would.
        I guess I would be more pragmatic about “collectively made as a society” errors. I think it would be great to give all our federal lands back to the Native Americans, but not necessarily prescribe what they do with plants and animals. I don’t know what they as a group would want but I would give them back the agency to determine it.

        • Re: Myth of Eden. I recognize there were humans that impacted the landscapes and plants and animals of North America before Europeans arrived. I don’t find terms like Eden or “virgin” particularly apt. But clearly species populations and distributions and habitat are greatly different now than they were pre-European arrival. And yeah, I think it would have been cool to witness some of that with my own eyes. I think about where my parents’ house is and wonder what that little plot of land and its surroundings looked and sounded like 200 years ago. I think it’s a fairly pervasive trait of humanity to think about what once was and sometimes feel overwhelmed by how much has changed even without our own short lifetimes. It can provide some drive to protect what we have now and in the future. I know “we can’t go back to the way it was” but we can try to keep from losing even more and having less to leave for the next generations.

          Re: Sri Lanka, etc. One thing I’m still wrapping my head around (excessively hand-wringing?) is how to respect cultural values even when we know they are contributing to local extirpations and possibly extinctions. I.e., trade in animal products based on beliefs that certain things contain medicinal value. Pangolins, tigers, leopards, rhinos, etc., are rapidly declining in part because of this. How do we not come across as “elitist” and “intellectuals” condescending to local cultures even if we know that this type of trade is not sustainable? Same with palm plantations in Indonesia causing destruction of orangutan habitat. It seems like a rock and a hard place. Try to get those practices to stop by pointing out how harmful and often based on faulty or lack of science and the “elitist,” etc. digs start flying.

          Re: Native Americans. A question I have about “keep public lands public” – what do tribes think about that?

          • John, I agree with you on “try to keep losing even more and having less to leave for the next generations.” It just seems as if eastern and midwestern states that are pretty thoroughly developed/disturbed get to tell other states (while their economies are running on natural gas and coal produced by these other states) that they shouldn’t disturb anything in their states.

            Similarly with countries.. it seems like “we messed up our environment and got rich and we don’t want you to mess up your environment (by developing).” If you didn’t develop by 1970, you shouldn’t do it.

            It seems like environmentally concerned people have a role to play in helping people around the world figure out how they can balance making a living and protecting the environment. And there are groups that seem to have success working with local folks, as difficult as it can be. I think that there’s an entire body of literature on successful ways to work with communities for conservation.

            As to the Native Americans, I don’t know if they would want to keep the returned land public. And that would be a sad thing, but maybe much less sad than what happened to their ancestors originally. With all the money the Feds would save in planning (and NGO’s on litigating) and so on, perhaps collaborative groups could buy large chunks of currently private land and allow public access.

        • I totally agree with Oates that “nature” has not ended. But how does he define “nature”? I define it as having a preponderance of natural selection. I also agree that North America before the European invasion was not an “Eden”. See my essay (at on early historic distribution of bison in the Rockies for a small part of my opinion. (I was called a racist by one reviewer of what I wrote there.) As for what would Native Americans do if we gave the continent back to them: The diverse answers exist on the many reservations today. But this is far from my simple, original position that preserving more wilderness in the USA is desirable and it does relate to the freedom, as I defined it, of future generations. JAB

    • Jim, those are your definitions of freedom and so on. The ESA, though, was not actually set up to protect “ecosystems.” I think in general that you speak of generalities and my view is more specific. Like suppose we were afraid of some disease wiping out a tree species, and decided that shutting off trade from parts of the world that have that disease was the best way to protect our species. Would that show respect for the freedom of other cultures? Or future generations? I’m not sure.

      • Please reread the ESA. It’s objective is to preserve species and the ecosystems to which they belong. — My argument is that environmental diversity is a necessary ingredient to maximize freedom (maximize the diversity of opportunities for individual experience and self-expression). I did not say it would be easy or that, with our growing human population and dominance of the world’s resources, there would not have to be tradeoffs. Re diseases: we have laws preventing the casual movement of diseases and some alien species being transferred among states. We also have laws against murder. I suppose that restricts some individuals “freedom”. This all started with me making a case for preserving more wild areas in order to maintain some diversity in the world. (2.7% of the 48 states is not enough). Now I get responses defending logging. It’s not the same issue. Some “loggers” should ask why they are so defensive as to justify their own views of “healthy forests” when all I said as we need to protect what little wild, undomesticated landscape we have left. One gets the impression that they want it all. JAB

  2. “Pope Francis imbues the biodiversity crisis with a moral imperative (“Each creature has its own purpose,” he said in 2015).” This author seemed to differ:
    But he ended up saying: “The process of extinction may be amoral (at least, extinctions not caused by humans), but I didn’t intend to state that we had no moral obligation to our environment. Biodiversity conservation is needed so that the greatest possible amount of the biosphere is preserved intact through the Sixth Extinction…”
    That’s where I come out, but I would say it is for practical rather than moral reasons. Destroying something that you don’t know the value of is not smart. It forecloses options, and the more options we lose the sooner humanity will face its own extinction.

    • I don’t think that it’s an accident that Pyron is also an evolutionary biologist (like me). It sounds like he said perhaps what he thought in the op-ed, others ran with the title and then had to walk it back to be part of the academic-research biotic community. Other evolutionary biologists may agree with aspects of what he said but would not like to go on record due to the profession closing ranks. Sometimes universities are the least diverse places, thought-wise.

      To your point “destroying something that you don’t know the value of is not smart”.. I liked what Pyron said in the op-ed.
      “The solution is simple: moderation. While we should feel no remorse about altering our environment, there is no need to clear-cut forests for McMansions on 15-acre plots of crabgrass-blanketed land. We should save whatever species and habitats can be easily rescued (once-endangered creatures such as bald eagles and peregrine falcons now flourish), refrain from polluting waterways, limit consumption of fossil fuels and rely more on low-impact renewable-energy sources.

      We should do this to create a stable, equitable future for the coming billions of people, not for the vanishing northern river shark. Conservation is needed for ourselves and only ourselves. All those future people deserve a happy, safe life on an ecologically robust planet, regardless of the state of the natural world compared with its pre-human condition. We cannot thrive without crops or pollinators, or along coastlines as sea levels rise and as storms and flooding intensify.

      Yet that robust planet will still erase huge swaths of animal and plant life. Even if we live as sustainably as we can, many creatures will die off, and alien species will disrupt formerly “pristine” native ecosystems. The sixth extinction is ongoing and inevitable — and Earth’s long-term recovery is guaranteed by history (though the process will be slow). Invasion and extinction are the regenerative and rejuvenating mechanisms of evolution, the engines of biodiversity.”

      • You quote Pyron, as introduced by Jon above: “The solution is simple: moderation. … The sixth extinction is ongoing and inevitable — and Earth’s long-term recovery is guaranteed by history (though the process will be slow). Invasion and extinction are the regenerative and rejuvenating mechanisms of evolution, the engines of biodiversity.”

        Yes, sort of, BUT! The solution is “moderation”? Hardly. How “slow” will be the recovery? Eons? And recover to what? Nothing like what was before. And without whom? Humans and many species we share our experience on Earth with. Whoa!

        I support Pyron’s message in small part: that we need to care for the planet for our own long term prospects. Still I did not find the article in sinc with my own values or environmental ethics. In trailing comments to Pyron’s Washington Post article, I found this, that squares more with my own assessment:

        11/29/2017 9:01 PM MST
        This is one of worst articles I have read on so many levels, and I am glad to see that most comments note this. Firstly, speaking as an environmental scientist, the science behind his arguments is twisted and mistaken. The worlds real biodiversity experts such as Ed Wilson and Peter Raven and Michael Soule all rightly explain exactly why the current ecocide is a tragedy. As Soule and Wilcox (1980) have observed: ‘Death is one thing – an end to birth is something else’, which is what we are doing by possibly sending more than half of terrestrial multi-cellular life extinct by the end of the century (as Wilson notes). Secondly, as someone who writes about ecological ethics, this guy’s ethics are apalling. Yes, all species will go extinct but that does not justify sending species extinct. After all, all of us will die, but that doesnt justify me killing you. Given that human society is totally dependent on nature, sending half the world’s species extinct is dumb practically. It is also intensely evil ethically. To trot out the old argument ‘hey humans are part of nature, thus what we are doing is natural’ is to ignore the fact that humans are a species with culture AND ethics. Our culture allows us to change the world far more than other species and cause ecocide. Our ethics and intelligence allows us to see this is a stupid and immoral thing to do. Hence we can change our actions, not advocate denial and doing nothing as this author does. It is hard to understand why the Washington post published such a flawed, foolish, fallacious and unethical article when they could have asked a real expert on biodiversity to explain the tragedy of mass extinction humanity is causing!

        • Dave- At the risk of being heretical, I don’t believe that Wilson, Raven and Soule are not any more biodiversity experts than any of the rest of us in the biodiversity science biz. We disagree! That’s what science is supposed to be about. Listening to different hypotheses, generating experiments to tell the difference and so on.

          I’m not sure that I believe in “mass extinction”. You would need to show how many species we are losing compared to what, and in many cases species were not identified until 200 or fewer years ago. People still disagree about what is and is not a species and the models for mass extinctions are rife with assumptions.

          If you are in a scientific discipline and you disagree with the predominant worldview, people will say all kinds of bad things about you . But none of that makes you wrong.

          The author was not advocating “doing nothing” .. Haydn’s comment was a typical “mischaracterize their view and question the person’s expertise and morals” kind of response.

          • Sharon,

            I don’t think there has to be an either/or distinction between, say, a geneticist’s view, a conservation biologist’s view, or a paleontologist’s view re: biodiversity. Why not both/and/and. That is the way I look at it: all can exist together in a given broad scientific paradigm.

            When I read Pyron’s article I had the same reaction you had with Hayden Washington’s reply. What you called a “‘mischaracterize their view and question the person’s expertise and morals’ kind of response.”

            As to “mass extinctions,” do you accept that there have been five events in world history that some label “mass extinctions” a la
            Or do you not accept that “history”? If not, in total or in part?

            As to angst with Pyron’s article I suspect my own angst derives in the main with the fact that he seems to have a devil may care, shrug your shoulders, attitude to what he refers to as the ongoing sixth great extinction, as in his concluding paragraph:

            “If this means fewer dazzling species, fewer unspoiled forests, less untamed wilderness, so be it. They will return in time. The Tree of Life will continue branching, even if we prune it back. The question is: How will we live in the meantime?”

            I think there are at least two important questions: Whether we can maintain a livable and desirable planet for humans and others into the far future? And if we can manage to embrace the challenge of the first, “How will we live In the transition?”

            In reading Pyron’s article I find no mention of the possibility of too many humans on the planet, too much carbon loading, or other common refrains that conservation biologists and environmental ethicists are quick to point out. Neither do I see the much on the idea that we might, if we don’t change our ways, reduce biodiversity as to render human existence infeasible or at least not desirable as anything beyond mere existence. Even though I agree that ultimately it is about “us,” I don’t see an “us” without the preponderance many of the species we share our experience with. Maybe I’ve read too much Leopoldian thought to think otherwise.

  3. It is not surprising that those who feel some elitism always want to correct the in correctable so they can feel good, regardless of reality.
    The reality is that we live in a global economy, with an isolationist attitude., about how we can effect climate change. Any and all demands for natural resources in our country will be satisfied by some other country, if not by us. The intellectuals are in denial of the consequences of their actions, as thousands of hectares are cleared and not reforested in other countries, because of the additional regulations so they can feel like they are making a difference…….. too much of a good thing is worse than none at all.

  4. Back to original post. There are many “sub-specie” that originated from or were influenced by transplants from other areas. The Umpqua cutthroat trout, the fishers in the Siskiyou Mountains, wild turkeys in Western Oregon….. at what point do we admit that the world and environment is in constant change and evolution? The fact that humans ha e existed for thousands of years and have undoubtedly influenced the environment for the same amount of time should be factored into the equation also. Reducing human impact is just as important as reducing impacts from plagues, swarms, droughts, etc OR is this also wrong. It’s natural for one specie to excel at the expense of another specie, to the point that the dominant specie then dies off due to the impact it had on it’s environment, usually its food chain, back to a level where the rest of the environment, or what’s left, again grows. We are seeing this with the barred owl and spotted owl. We see this with coyotes and rabbits on a 2-3 year cycle, we see this with elephants in the Savannah. Who’s to say that this isn’t the process humans are part of in a much larger and longer scheme of the environment?

    • Sorry, you left my point way behind. I have never viewed the world as static and not evolving. I also agree that species (and cultures) have always competed. My simple point is that we should consider the many, many ways that were are monotomizing our world, locally, regionally and more, and my plea was to same more of our environment, and that of future generations, as wild areas where we minimize, to the extent that we can, our impacts. — JAB

      • Much of today’s Federal forestry is more about mitigation, rather than impacts. Thinning and salvage logging are sometimes labeled as “destruction”. Thinning is sometimes seen as greedy and unnatural. Forestry, itself, is often claimed to be unneeded, compared to ‘Mother Nature’. (Of course, that isn’t a current choice, anyway)

      • Jim Bailey is not the first to suggest that “we are monotomizing our world.” Luna Leoplod delivered the same message to the Forest Service 5/11/1990. See or specifically

        … Luna Leopold is a retired professor from UC Berkeley, and a long-standing
        observer of the Forest Service. While making it clear that he was “speaking as
        a friend,” he also made it clear that he was not in favor of certain practices
        that forest managers had allowed themselves to be drawn into. “You are not tree
        farmers,” he said, “but you’ve allowed yourselves to become tree farmers.” “You
        have lost the idea of being a forest manager.” He puzzled over the widespread
        use of clearcutting and the reluctance to embrace selective logging. One might
        argue that the Forest Service chooses not to log selectively because it is not
        profitable, but Leopold pointed out that the Forest Service’s timber sales often
        don’t make money–no matter what type of timber management is chosen. …

        [Luna] Leopold cut his prescriptive advice from the same cloth that his father
        had used 40 years earlier. He said that we need to adopt a new and completely
        different “ethos”–one based on ecology and a love for the land. Each of us
        would be well advised to dust off our copies of his father’s A Sand County
        Almanac. For those who do, pay particular attention to the three chapters
        titled: “The Land Ethic”, “Wilderness”, and “A Conservation Esthetic.”

        Leopold concluded his remarks on a somber note. After acknowledging that
        there were many forces that drove forest managers to do things that violated
        their sensibility, he punctuated his conclusion: “The Forest Service has taken
        on the job of overseeing the destruction and disintegration of the forest empire
        of the American public.” …

  5. Maybe foresters can relate better to a tree.

    The Florida torreya is North America’s most endangered conifer, with less than one percent of its population remaining, due primarily to an introduced fungus. Now, scientists are mounting a last-ditch effort to save the torreya and are considering using new gene-editing technologies to protect it. They will also determine whether “an extinction vortex” is underway within the torreya’s ecological community.

    As the wind gusted through leafless branches, the lanky, white-haired Wilson, at 88 years of age still one of the most brilliant biologists of his generation, planted a seedling of the Florida torreya… “Every scrap of biological diversity is priceless, to be learned and cherished, and never to be surrendered without a struggle,” Wilson wrote in his 1992 book The Diversity of Life. At the meeting, he pledged to dedicate his remaining years to raising the global extinction crisis “to the same level of urgency as slowing climate change.”

    “As biodiversity continues to hemorrhage all around us,” Wilson said, “we face a momentous moral decision that can be put in the form of a question: What kind of a species are we to treat the rest of life so cheaply?” This, he added, “is not only a moral issue but an issue of survival.” He then posed another question: “What will future generations think about how we have acted so carelessly?”

    Even if there is an apparent technological solution to extinction:


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