A species goes extinct and people celebrate

All animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others.
~George Orwell, “Animal Farm”

Actually, humanity has celebrated the extinction of three species.

Normally, when a species goes extinct, it is mourned. People talk about biodiversity and make references to Aldo Leopold’s famous quote about intelligent tinkering. There are concerns brought up about habitat loss and pollution and what could have been done to stop it. Before the extinction, countless dollars are spent trying to prevent it, if possible.

But much is made about that need to keep every cog and wheel. To not lose anything, lest we lose the one strand that holds everything together. Some people (including myself) claim that every species has an intrinsic right to exist, regardless of its benefit or detriment to humanity.

Apparently this only applies to macroorganisms.

We celebrated, with good reason, the eradication of Variola major and V. minor. Smallpox. This month, it was announced that we’ve also eradicated rinderpest, Rinderpest virus, which affected cattle.

I’m not saying that we shouldn’t celebrate the extinction of three species that have plagued humans. But I am saying we should examine our double standard. It’s okay to drive a microorganism, a virus, a contagion, a plague, to extinction. We don’t lament or question their death. But we still beat our breast about the extinction of more charismatic species. We hold the macroorganisms, and even more so the megafauna, to a higher standard than we do other species that may be just as necessary in the long run.

If every cog and wheel should be kept, then let us keep them all. If we feel that some cogs and wheels may be discarded, let us not claim that they are all necessary.

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6 Responses to “A species goes extinct and people celebrate”

  1. Really good food for thought.

  2. Do you have a quote to support holding different species to different standards?

    This seems to be a straw man argument.

  3. You are confusing different reasons for biodiversity conservation:
    http://redpath-museum.mcgill.ca/Qbp/2.About%20Biodiversity/importance.html

    The “majority of populace” doesn’t really care about biodiversity but thinks snowshoe hares are cuter. Cute is a poor argument for conservation, but unfortunately has been used.

    • Dargon Says:

      You and I seem to be reading this a bit differently. I see no argument here at all (and hence no straw man either). This simply seems to point out a double standard. It says nothing about the merits of this double standard; whether it is one that should be gotten rid of or one that is justified and should be embraced. Most people would side with the latter, and for good reason. None the less, it may be worthwhile to look at those reasons, see their merits and implications.

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