Tuesday, May 5

Biodiversity Conservation

Unmined Riches- E.O. Wilson

Wilson explains that if we use our available manpower, the United States could make a substantial contribution to a global biodiversity survey. He explains there first should be an emergency assessment of immediately threatened regional ecosystems thought to harbor especially rich and diverse assortments of species. Areas where high diversity is confirmed could then be the focus of intense conservation efforts. He then proposes an intermediate effort aimed at a more systematic exploration of threatened areas that are especially rich in species, like tropical rain forests. Insects and other arthropods are so vital to the overall functioning of life, Dr. Wilson writes, that "humanity probably could not last more than a few months" if they were to disappear. Finally, a global biodiversity survey would combine the first two studies with more conventional long-term explorations. The survey would be broadened to include the tiniest creatures like protozoa and bacteria. This growing encyclopedia of life would provide, over decades and even centuries, a description of the living world that gradually coalesced "to create a fine-grained image of global biodiversity."

Because of the destruction of tropical forests and other habitats, uncounted species are becoming extinct before scientists can even name and study them for their scientific and economic value. An effort to survey all these "unmined riches," Dr. Wilson says, is at least as important as mapping the human genome or cataloguing the heavens, since it involves the living fabric on which human survival depends. I feel that E.O. Wilson has made a compelling argument for us to begin biodiversity conservation now before it is too late. I think that Wilson reminds the jaded viewer that there really is a crisis, and that it is nearly too late to do anything about it. This ethical dilemma goes hand-in-hand with global climate change in the fact that it is hard for people to first acknowledge the problem, and second it is hard to know what the effects will be. There are ethical and moral responsibilities that need to be taken into consideration. Who is responsible to conserve biodiversity? What about the responsibility to provide resources to people? How do we go about conserving biodiversity since it is so vast? Etc. etc.

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