Sunday, October 12, 2008

To Interfere or Not to Interfere

Here's an article about a new debate going on: Should humans help species move ahead of global warming? If an area is becoming too hot or rainfall levels are changing, should we dig up plants and move them north or uphill? Should we move them past cities and around thousands of square miles of agriculture?

Some would argue it's merely an extension of things we do now--reintroducing a species to its former habitat such as wolves to Yellowstone, shipping Dennis the wayward manatee back to Florida, wildlife rehabilitation of injured animals. Almost everything about our society interferes with the processes of the natural world; why not try to do good and alleviate the harm we've done? I can appreciate the sentiment; I think to even care whether another species is going to survive automatically qualifies a person as a better than average human.

But my opinion is that this going too far in trying to manage the world, and is a desperate attempt to assuage our guilt. I oppose it philosophically and more importantly, practically. I think the more apt comparisons are to the many alien species which we have deliberately or accidentally introduced to an area and thereby caused the extinctions of the species which were already there.

Despite the attempt of humans to do so, a species does not live in isolation in its location. It is dependent on an entire web of uncountable seasonal events and interactions with other species, from the time of year different plants grow in a forest to animal migrations to birth times and rates. The notion that we are capable of managing the natural world is simply false, and exactly the type of attitude which is responsible for the problems that world now faces.


Terry said...

There are even more over-reaching plans than that. Seeding the oceans with iron to make phytoplankton grow faster and suck carbon out of the air for example. It might work, or it might go horribly wrong and make things worse. Apparently, for some people, that means it's worth a shot.

greentangle said...

I had to look that one up to learn the basics. Here's a series of articles based on a Woods Hole (where I had childhood oceanographer fantasies) conference on the subject.

I find it amazing that people do this kind of stuff without knowing what the consequences will be. I don't know why I find it amazing; all I have to do is look at history to know it's nothing new, especially if someone can make some money off it.

Don't just do something; stand there!

Lisa J. said...

You're bringing up something that evades my line of thinking: that humans think they are so wise as to be able to "manage" the earth.

Ironically, those that claim this are also the ones who proclaim at the top of their lungs their 'Christianity' - and if this were truly the case, they'd know that there's only one "person" capable of managing the earth.

I completely oppose actions to move or relocate or manage natural habitats & inhabitants. How about this: we stay the hell out of nature's way?

greentangle said...

Amen, sister! ;-)

Tracy H. said...

I agree. Nature knows far more than we do.