— Oscar Wilde
Every living species represents one unique pathway to success, developed over millions of years. What we lose with each passing species can never be replaced
— Georgina Mace
The Zoological Society of London has created a list of the hundred species now closest to extinction. And there something else special about these species—they provide no "services" or "benefits" to humans. That these species share these traits is not a coincidence.
For the first time ever, more than 8,000 scientists from the IUCN Species Survival Commission (IUCN SSC) have come together to identify 100 of the most threatened animals, plants and fungi on the planet. But conservationists fear they’ll be allowed to die out because none of these species provide humans with obvious benefits.
Professor Jonathan Baillie, ZSL’s Director of Conservation explains: "The donor community and conservation movement are leaning increasingly towards a ‘what can nature do for us’ approach, where species and wild habitats are valued and prioritised according to the services they provide for people. This has made it increasingly difficult for conservationists to protect the most threatened species on the planet.
While the utilitarian value of nature is important, conservation goes beyond this."
Professor Baillie then asks—
Do these species have a right to survive or do we have a right to drive them to extinction?
The report is called Priceless Or Worthless? You can read the full report here (pdf). Most of it is devoted to pictures of and information about the hundred endangered species. I've reproduced the entry for Pseudoryx nghetinhensis, also called the Saola, or the Asian Unicorn.
Writing for Wired, Brandan Keim makes a good point I never thought about before.
If some smidgen of bacterial goo was found on a faraway asteroid, it would be the discovery of the year, perhaps the century. Life on Earth would not be alone!
Yet when it comes to the life that surrounds us, people can be remarkably cavalier, even downright callous: What's another frog species more or less? What's it do for us, anyways?
One of the things that separates DOTE from other websites is my attempt to look at the Human Condition from a distance. In short, I have declared war on anthropocentrism. This requires me to remove myself as far as possible from the human world, and to a large extent I am indeed removed from it.
Aside from my local bar, which is essential for my mental health, this blog is my only day-to-day foray into that world, and even here I try to keep my distance so I can be as objective as possible about what's happening on this planet. I did not divorce myself from others intentionally. In fact, looking back, it was mostly the other way around. The humans didn't want to have anything to do with me. They were uncomfortable with me. Now I have no use for most of them.
Once you remove anthropocentrism from the discussion, Professor Baillie's question becomes moot. Only a species as fucked up as Homo sapiens could possibly behave as though other species are worthless.
Pseudoryx nghetinhensis (Saola, Asian Unicorn)
Source: Live Science