Re: NANFA-- environment and the presidency

Jeffrey Fullerton (
Wed, 23 Feb 2000 20:49:13 -0500

Shireen Gonzaga wrote:

> > Date: Wed, 23 Feb 2000 00:54:04 -0500
> > From: Jeffrey Fullerton <>
> > Were these not Iowa Darters we're talking about?
> I cannot speak specifically for these fish, since I
> don't know their natural history. But I am very
> suspicious of anyone who claims to be an expert.
> But to address this specifically--I also wonder...
> since the Iowa darters are "fairly common," what's the
> harm in letting these and other fish naturally
> colonize a restored area? If a system is healthy, the
> fish, insects, inverts, and other life-sustaining
> members of the food web will find their way there in
> time.
> > These would not be pampered fish that have been
> > inbred in aquaria for generations, but from a wild
> > population which has been studied and screened for
> > disease and parasites - then spawned in a hatchery
> > to eliminate parasite loads that adult fish often
> > carry.
> Sounds good in theory. But what about pathogens in the
> introduced waters that the fish are not equipped to
> deal with? There are just too many variables.
> Life is filled with variables. No one can fully predict the consequences of a
> given action. But that is not grounds for ceasing all interaction with the
> world. The fish in question are historically native to that bio region and are
> likely to possess some genetic capacity to adapt to slightly different
> variations in water chemistry, climate etc. Some more so than others.
> Please don't misrepresent my words. I never said
> eco-engineering is about playing God. Eco-engineering
> is a very broad subject. In this context, I am
> objecting to the notion that we humans have the right
> to plant fish like we plant trees in the back yard.

Believe it or not there are people out there who would contest that right too -
and sometimes in part for good reason. But they would also go as far as to thow
the baby away with the bathwater. Reintroducing the missing peices to a landscape
with a long history of human made alterations makes good sense. As good sense as
setting aside what we would consider 'pristine areas' for preservation in their
natural state. In "Conscience of a Conservationist" by M. Graham Netting the
author spoke of Wilderness as a control against which lands managed by humans
might be measured - as well as a source of spiritual inspiration and reverence
for the creation.
There is virtue in wilderness. But there is also virtue in human made or
People need connection to the natural world and not everyone can afford to take a
trip to the wilderness or buy a farm out in the country. That's why many people
have hobbies like gardening and fishkeeping, water gardening, herpetoculture and
aviculture. That's also why there is an emerging feild of landscaping
specializing in the restoration of damaged ecosystems, native plant nurseries
etc. The project at Prairie crossing is a noble experiment and the risks involved
are reasonable risks outweighed by the potential gains. The project is carefully
coordinated and has the full blessing of the state- it's about time that natural
resource agencies did something on the behalf of non-game fishes beside
protecting them on paper and passivly watching them become extinct!

> That sounds nice, in theory. But what elements are we
> introducing? Is that being done intelligently? How
> much control do we think we have over the system?
> People are inherently control freaks. All I'm
> suggesting is that we stop trying to fix a degraded
> environment by reintroducing its previously extinct
> tenants and/or anything remotely related. We should
> just step back and let the environment heal itself on
> its own time and in its own way, and only if
> absolutely necessary help the organisms that are
> _already_ there that are trying to cling to survival.

For those who don't mind living in a degraded environment, that's fine.
I still cannot see anything wrong with trying to fix things and replace missing
elements if feasable. many rare taxa can benefit by creating refugia for them in
the human environment. The reality is that the world is rapidly inovating and
sometimes natural processes are too slow to keep up. Climates are changing and
habitats are fragmented. Many taxa cannot migrate naturally across their historic
ranges because they are hemmed in by infrastructure. The systematic rollback of
infrastructure and population advocated by some environmentalists is not
politically feasable, nor would it be humane so the next best thing is thoughful
intervention to conserve what we can of existing wild areas and try to create
refuguia in the human made landscape. It's a way of sharing our habitat with
other lifeforms which gives more redundancy to existing populations and enhances
the quality of human life as well.

> Once a species is gone from its particular wild
> habitat, it can never return. We need to understand,
> absorb, and accept the finality and tragedy of that
> *death*. Then we must try to save what's still left
> (that includes protecting _in situ_ endangered
> organisms).

This raises the question as to who should be the final authority on whether or
not a species should be saved or simply allowed to "become extinct with dignity"
A fundamental issue defining the split between the "let Nature take its course"
deep ecology faction and those who would consider it reasonable to intervene on
the behalf of past mistakes. It also makes issue of the question "who does the
natural world belong to anyway"?
And what is our role in it?
Who is to decide that?
Interestingly enough there is a perception in the environmental community of
humanity as alien interlopers on Earth as profound as that conveyed by western
religious though - humans as special creations separate from the rest of
I like to take the middle ground and think that we belong here as much as other
forms, but we are also special. We are matter vested with consciousness- the
eyes, ears, hands and minds of the cosmos.
As Carl Sagan once said - "A way for the Cosmos to know itself".

> Yeah, yeah, I know. It's more complicating than
> that....

I hope this is not too deep or offensive to the beliefs and values of others.
And I did not mean to misrepresent the comments of anyone in regard to the idea
of playing God. Merely defending the concept of Eco-engineering as a viable means
for enhancing the ecological health and beauty of landscapes and the conservation
of biological diversity.


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