Monday, April 27, 2009

Extinct? Says who?

In my morning email was a link to some very strange animals, some of which are believed to have been extinct, but extinction isn't what it used to be. The Pygmy tarsier hasn't been seen in 80+ years, but it is alive and well and breeding like, well, tarsiers, in another region of Indonesia. There was also a frog discovered that no one had ever seen before, a lovely green tree frog, that is quite hardy and active for a nonexistent species.

There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, than are dreamt of in your philosophy. So said Hamlet to his friend. Hamlet spoke of ghosts and the night visitation of his father who wanted Hamlet to avenge his untimely death, but there are more things in heaven and earth than any of us have ever dreamt. I remember reading about a coelacanth, a fish believed to be extinct for millions of years, showing up in a fisherman's net and the giant squid feared by mariners for centuries finally found and filmed. More things in heaven and earth, indeed.

In our arrogant belief that we know everything there is to know about the earth and how it works, we rush to change, rescuing endangered species and deciding which animals and causes are most important at the moment to save from man's predation. We fail to realize that humans are animals and have been on this planet a very short time in relation to the species that have walked, crawled and flown before us and will continue to inhabit this planet long after we are extinct. We know more about the moon and our solar system than we do about the depths of the oceans and even about our own back yards, and yet we continue to believe that we know best. Compared to insects, were are a minor species. Granted, we are capable of terraforming our environment, but not nearly as effectively or with such devastating results as the marabunta. These South American killer ants destroy everything in their path, including humans, stripping a man to the bone in a matter of minutes. Good thing the marabunta don't have politicians and environmentalists telling them they are destroying the environment and could cause the extinction of humans.

Humans, especially of the political and environmental variety, have a tendency to believe in their own superiority, especially in matters of their impact on the environment, but they really don't know how it all works. These environmentally and politically correct humans take a small sampling of information, put it into a computer model with their limited knowledge and decide the future of species and the direction of human evolution and social consciousness. They don't realize that their meddling may create an even greater problem, like taking a predator out of its natural habitat where it is prey and putting it into a foreign environment where there is no predator above it to keep it in check. The predator ravages the indigenous species to the brink of extinction and another hue and cry goes up to save the newly endangered species. It would have been better had the humans stayed out of it and left nature to itself. Like the pygmy tarsiers and coelacanth that found new homes and adapted or stayed under the radar, extinction is not the absolute end, as humans would believe.

Species come and go on this planet and will continue to do so with or without the help or consent of humans. We are one cog in the vast machinery of nature that has, as my grandmother would say, gotten too big for its britches. The cog thinks it is the whole machine.

It is time for us to step back and go about our lives with some understanding of our impact, but without the urge to rescue the rest of the world. Humans may think they are at the top of the food chain, but we're not. We can be brought low by microscopic bacteria and viruses, eaten by predators and destroyed by fellow humans. We are a blip on the evolutionary scale and the best thing we can do is continue to survive, adapting to our environment and the world around us, until it is our turn to find some secluded spot far from predators' eyes to regroup until we can emerge from the shadows as an extinct species that has been rediscovered.

No comments: