Environmentalism is quite a unique cause. It simultaneously affects and bores every person on the planet. I don’t consider myself an environmentalist, but I have a very different perspective than people who listen only to industry.
I really don’t care about animals. I tried, and I like plenty of domesticated animals (especially on my plate), but I just can’t bring myself to give a shit about wildlife. However, my understanding of science won’t allow me to ignore the resources lost whenever a species goes extinct.
I find projects like this one to be vital to the human race. Cataloguing the DNA of animals and plants can allow us to preserve at least some part of these living things which have evolved as little independent biochemical factories for millions of years.
Nearly all of our drugs – both medical and enjoyable – are chemicals we derived from living things. Scientists aren’t mixing up random junk in the lab and injecting them into rats to see what happens. They find chemical processes in nature, isolate the responsible molecule or compound, then inject it into rats to see what happens.
We have such a small understanding of biology that new discoveries are still made daily, even in well-known species. Animals like the Tasmanian Devil face extinction, and humans are not to blame. There is a facial tumor disease which is sweeping through mainland populations, and human efforts to form isolated colonies on other islands may be their only hope.
Even though the devils are not endangered because of us, I would say it is still in our best interest to help them. Saving the animals is not about guilt, it is about preserving knowledge. The problem is, there’s not nearly enough support for these kind of efforts.
Business does not like environmentalism. Business doesn’t like the labor movement, either. Business just doesn’t like having to treat anything with respect or decency. Business is about making money, and clean up is expensive. It’s much cheaper to just manufacture your product and dump the by-product.
But what if your business is the environment? Logging has made great efforts to remain sustainable, with many operating on cycles of tree cutting and planting that gives them an essentially neutral presence. Fishing, however, is another matter. I love fish, but as much as it pains me to say, I shouldn’t eat any.
Besides the chemicals that they bioaccumulate from our disgusting dump habits, fish are disappearing. Not all fish, really, just the delicious ones. Salmon, tuna, sea bass… a lot of these fish only exist at levels hovering around 15% of pre-industrial age populations. That means we ate over 80% of the tasty fish.
If they couldn’t fuck (or more accurately, spawn) fast enough to replace themselves when their numbers were far greater (and humans were far fewer), there’s not much hope for them now. In all likelihood, some fish you commonly see on the menu will go extinct, maybe even this century.
It is a complex problem, but it’s downright brutal for fishermen. They have two options: they can collectively choose to stop fishing (either by significantly lowering their catch quota or stopping entirely until the populations recover), or they can fish until their jobs disappear.
One group has declined to recommend a ban, but they have been criticized for pursuing the short-term profits over the long-term stability of the industry. I wonder how many people making the decision were over 50 and how many were under 25… I can’t imagine those old farts have any vested interest in leaving young people any jobs – or fish.
Sometimes I wonder if the Eskimos had it right by sending their elderly out on ice floes. Maybe that’s why the old, rich bastards who sell us the idea that environmentalism is wrong have a vested interest in melting the caps. If it’s too inefficient to clean up after yourself or to leave things as you found them, maybe it’s too inefficient to care for the old.