All species will go extinct. Even Ginkgo Biloba. So why should we fret about the extinction of polar bears or the Columbia Basin Pygmy Rabbit?
Any given species on the face of the planet have an estimated lifespan of 10 million years or so – after that it goes extinct. Some last longer, others shorter. When we understand the entropic nature of species, calling it an evolutionary process sounds mistaken. It is a process of mutation, of adaptation to the surrounding environment.
Evolution suggests progress. It suggests that species are getting “better” – when actually they are just different. If the dinosaurs had not been whipped out by the great meteor, they would have gone the way of every species – mutate or die.
As much as we talked about global warming today, the planet that the dinosaurs lived in was a much warmer one that were we lived today. That is the primary reason some dinosaurs were able to get as big as they did – in a warmer climate, cold blooded dinosaurs spent a much smaller level of energy into keeping warm.
At any rate, back to the original problem. Looking at the general fate of species in the planet, extinction seems to be a given. Moreover, on its own the argument that we are destroying the biodiversity of the planet does not hold water. The Permian extinction destroyed the most biological diverse ecosystem this planet has ever seen – and the planet moved on without any Sierra Club to “conserve” it.
The real issue we should look at is human welfare and our adaptability to the changes we are perpetrating to the planet. We as a species are adapted to the current conditions of our planet. Maybe more than any other species, our existence depends intrinsically on the current conditions of our planet because our survival methods are not just biological, but also extremely socio-political. Agriculture as our main source of sustenance dictates that survival is depends not only on weather patterns on the areas we live in, but also in the areas we produce our food, and the areas we use to transport our food. Moreover, technology has been able to distort patterns of aridness and create patterns that contrast with the landscape – Semi-desertic California as an agriculture center comes to mind.
The dehumanizing aspect of conservationism is even exacerbated by a combination in the belief that capitalism will deliver us from scarcity, instead of creating and enforcing it. It is a very Enlightenment idea, one that infected even the thought of Karl Marx and his “stages of History” theory. It largely ignores that fact that, while drought and other natural conditions could sometimes bring scarcity and famine, even those were enlarged due to human social conditions. Moreover, most famines were created mainly or exclusively due to such conditions, and had nothing to do with “natural” conditions. Fourteenth century European peasants starved not due solely to the Little Ice Age but due to socio-political issues, such as distribution of wealth and overpopulation of the European continent.
So, again, my point. The idea of nature as an object, as an entity with which humanity can choose to have a positive or negative relationship is complete horseshit. It is paramount that we understand that the problem with global warming is part of a larger problem with our view of the natural world and the planet – objectification of our environment and separation between the “natural” and the “artificial”, between human and planet. We do not exist in a vacuum, and we cannot exist in a vacuum. We are as we are because of the conditions we live in, and we only live because the conditions in which we are.
So, like any species, we will stop existing at one point. We may mutate as our planet mutates, or we may just disappear off the face of the planet. What we are doing now is accelerating our demise and ensuring that the human species lose its chance of adaptability. The tragedy of this story is that conservationists generally talk about preserving other species, never their own. They see the world as their property, as their amusement park, and they want to make sure that it still looks as cool as it looked for them to their grandchildren. Its a selfish, individualist, very capitalist mind-set, and it will kill us yet. Because it compartmentalizes a problem that is wholistic, it seeks to addresses problems in a one-at-a-time basis and creates more problems down the road.
So yeah, we must save the polar bear’s habitat, if for no other reason than that it will save ourselves.
By the way, the difference between a member of the Sierra Club and the asshole in El Cerrito that was killing Oak trees because they blocked their view from the Bay? A matter of perspective on what to do with their property.