PRESIDENT AND CONGRESS NEED TO CONSIDER THE ENVIRONMENT
November 11, 2012
is over, and everyone can heave a huge sigh of relief. Everyone except
the winners, who need to tackle the next phase in the cycle: doing the
job for which they were elected. For President Obama and Congress, this
should include addressing a topic that went virtually unmentioned during
the campaigns - the environment.
climate change, aka global warming, was hurled around like a hot potato
from time to time, but no one is talking about a more tangible and readily
solvable environmental issue - our declining biodiversity. I have written
about biodiversity many times since E.O. Wilson of Harvard University
coined the word itself almost a quarter of a century ago. In the book
"Biodiversity," he presented some alarming facts, facts that
we should not ignore if we enjoy living on the earth as we know it.
We will be well served to reconsider some of the concepts he presented.
Most people, including many members of Congress, still do not grasp
the urgency or the depth of the problem.
we are measurably losing life on a daily basis. Tropical forests continue
to be a prime example because their destruction is causing a species
extinction rate rivaling anything the earth has experienced in 65 million
years. Giant meteorites colliding with the earth caused previous mass
extinctions. And even if human civilization had been in place, we could
not have prevented the inevitable destruction and elimination of species.
Today, we are losing both plant and animal species at an alarming rate,
not only in the tropics but worldwide. And since people represent the
meteors in this case, we can most certainly control their trajectory.
reasons for preserving the world's biodiversity are endless. From a
purely anthropocentric view, how many plants or animals have traits
that could be of value in the field of medicine? Every time another
species goes extinct, we lose the opportunity to find out. But doomsday
predictions annoy most people. They tend to engender a feeling of helplessness,
which can make people denounce the messenger, ignore the message, or
both. However, tackling the issue of declining biodiversity is not a
hopeless task, because we the people can control the situation and see
immediate positive results. Through education and, if necessary, regulation
we can curtail environmental destruction, especially by those who destroy
the environment merely for their own benefit.
educated society would embrace measures to ensure the welfare of our
natural environments and the species that comprise them. We can teach
our children that every species is valuable in its own right, and though
we may use them to our benefit and enjoy them, we are not entitled to
annihilate them or wantonly destroy their habitats. Congress can promote
scientific research to acquire more knowledge about the ecology, distribution
patterns, medical potentials and food opportunities of the plants and
animals of the world. Unlike the sudden impact of a moon-size meteor
on the world's plant and animal species, the trajectory toward extinction
for many species today is gradual, starting with the disappearance of
populations of native species, a creeping problem that does not alarm
us in the early stages. How are you going to feel when you suddenly
realize that several years have slipped by without your having seen
a blue jay or tiger swallowtail or fence lizard?
spread the message - to our children, our elected officials, and each
other - that in addition to potential value for us, each species has
its own intrinsic value, its own right to exist. We can become a society
that appreciates the importance of natural and native biodiversity and
is committed to preserving it for posterity. Congress needs to be 100
percent bipartisan and totally in support of all efforts to reduce the
loss of biodiversity not only in our own country but also throughout
the world. Then we won't have to listen to doomsday predictions about
what will happen if we don't take action.
you have an environmental question or comment, email