NANFA-- Devil's Advocate

Jeffrey Fullerton (
Thu, 07 Jun 2001 09:03:41 -0400

> You are a bad man, JF! I'm telling...but I don't know who to tell...
> You are hurting, not helping, the environment by identifying discreet units
> of it and extracting them for their protection.

Do you really think I'm evil?

I would not advocate giving up on saving the pupfish and its companion
species in situ. Yet I see nothing wrong with captive breeding and
farming it out to others. As for 'discreet units' ecosystems don't come
much smaller than Devil's Hole- it might be possible to build a
functioning replica at a zoo or public aquarium that could accomodate
the whole wild population and the other species as well.

This may not be an acceptable idea to you or others, and it may not even
be a politically feasable undertaking. But perserving the fish in its
habitat may not be politically feasable either over the long term.
Government intervention is no sure thing - over the long term the
priorities of governments change- we can always have wars , depressions
and other crises that might force environmental issues to take a back
seat. This is not an ideological assertion but a reality of life.

If you rate things according to Maslov's Hiearchy of Needs - things like
the survival of the Devil's Hole Pupfish or donations to the Sierra Club
or NANFA membership would be secondary to sustaining your own life
functions- ie drinking water, food shelter and physical security. Even
when it can be argued that environmental issues are important to meeting
most of these needs - in a do or die situation they are still secondary
- if given the choice between dying of thirst or saving the habitat of
the fish most sane people would sacrifice the fish. Now one can argue in
the case of Devil's hole and other desert springs that people have no
business living there but tell that to the folks living in Las Vegas.
Perhaps a little futher down than food or water - but of higher
importance than a fish is the need for a place to live. Most people are
deeply attached to the places they live and will resist with ferocity if
someone else tries to move them.

The point I'm trying to make by playing devil's advocate is that
environmental issues have sociocultural and economic dimensions that too
often are not considered when decisions are being made. When
environmentalists fail to consider them or ignore them - they get
surprised by the eventual political backlash when the electorate chooses
a candidate with a brash anti-environmental stance like Ronald Reagan.

Ironically as much as environmentalists complain about the prosperity of
western civilization destroying the planet -they fail to realize that
that prosperity has given them the luxury to take time apart from their
immediate survival needs to be concerned. If that prosperity were taken
from us we might very well find ourselves in a terrible trap in which we
would be forced to sacrifice many other species just to save our own.

Like day to day life in a small African nation called Chad.


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