An Excerpt from Jim Conrad's
NATURALIST NEWSLETTER
of November 21, 2010
Issued from Hacienda Chichen Resort adjoining Chichén Itzá Ruin in
YUCATÁN, MÉXICO
WHY BOTHER WITH
PRESERVING SPECIES?

Finding the seldom documented Neea tenuis and Heliocarpus glanduliferous this week got me thinking about the value of lesser-known and unknown species. With the enormous variety of life that exists -- more kinds of yellow butterflies, green algae and hawthorn trees than one could ever comfortably wrap his or her head around -- if a species we've never heard of goes extinct, what's the big deal?

One argument always trotted out to support the preservation of minor species is that one never knows what unstudied species may turn out to provide the cure for cancer or some other dreaded disease. That's true, but probably most people reason that since we already know close to 2,000,000 species, probably we'd have the cure by now if it were really there, or else we'll soon stumble upon the compound in our pharmaceutical labs.

Another argument for preserving species is that the more species-rich an ecosystem is, including the planetary human one, the more stable and sustainable it is. That's true, but so few people really grasp that they are part of an ecosystem, or why stable ecosystems are safer, that that argument doesn't carry much weight, either.

I believe that most people will never become concerned about the preservation of the Earth's millions of lesser-known species until they mature spiritually. I'm not talking about religiosity, which is the acceptance of dogma someone else teaches you. Spirituality is that set of insights and feelings blossoming spontaneously when one beholds and reflects on the incomprehensible gorgeousness and complexity of the Universe, and wonders how we humans fit into the scheme of things, and what the implications are for how we ought to behave.

If you accept "Nature as Bible," it's pretty clear how important diversity has been to "the Creator." Remember that as soon as Earth cooled after its formation, life arose. And as soon as life arose, it began very vigorously evolving new species. Always, always, always new species arose, each species ever more subtly adapted to ever more nuanced environments, until today we have all these millions of species, most of them not yet known to science, and evolution continues as lustily as ever.

Well, if one is to have any guiding principle in his or her life, what is more appropriate for that person than to harmonize behavior with the whole general flow of the Universe -- with what the Creator WANTS? And the history of Life on Earth indicates that what the Creator wants here is ever more diversity, which is exactly what protecting lesser-known species is all about. Facebook Icon.