Maybe extinction of endangered species not so bad?

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Maybe extinction of endangered species not so bad?

Postby Braininvat on November 26th, 2017, 1:18 pm 

Thought provoking article by a GWU biologist on 'the 6th extinction" underway....

https://www.washingtonpost.com/outlook/we-dont-need-to-save-endangered-species-extinction-is-part-of-evolution/2017/11/21/57fc5658-cdb4-11e7-a1a3-0d1e45a6de3d_story.html?hpid=hp_no-name_opinion-card-b%3Ahomepage%2Fstory&utm_term=.aea2ea9d0804

If you hit a paywall, I'll be happy to copy/paste the article into a post. (I think the code after the "?" in the URL will allow you to read it)
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Re: Maybe extinction of endangered species not so bad?

Postby BioWizard on November 26th, 2017, 2:10 pm 

Saving HIV/Ebola and masturbaring crows... lol.

Good read, certainly shows the somewhat hypocritical and/or knee jerk nature of thoughtless conservationism, and aptly reframes the questions about our short and long term survival.

This of course doesn’t mean I agree we should just go about our way outting absolutely no thought in how we impact the biome. But a little perspective is always good.
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Re: Maybe extinction of endangered species not so bad?

Postby wolfhnd on November 26th, 2017, 3:38 pm 

Mass extinction is a fairly poor term. It needs the qualification of indiscriminate and reduction of bio mass. That is not to say that loss of diversity is irrelevant. Lack of biodiversity has been suggested as a possible contributing factor in past "mass extinctions". For example today methane producing bacteria if allowed to proliferate could bring about a mass dying. It the word extinction that having a specific evolutionary context that is problematic.
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Re: Maybe extinction of endangered species not so bad?

Postby wolfhnd on November 26th, 2017, 4:10 pm 

One thing the author neglects is that to be human is to engineer and to engineer is to maximize survival potential.

We are not just concerned about diversity for practical reasons but for aesthetic as well. When we engineer living spaces we do so with an eye to aesthetics as well as function. A garden doesn't have just one kind of flower.

Art like everything else eventually decays. Take the sphinx for example. We try to preserve it but it will likely continue to deteriorate, perhaps grand buildings are a better example. In any case we engineer to protect art and we engineer to protect diversity not because we must but because we can.
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Re: Maybe extinction of endangered species not so bad?

Postby Serpent on November 26th, 2017, 8:52 pm 

I certainly wouldn't go to extraordinary lengths to save the last few of any species that would then have to live in captivity, any more than I would reconstitute a dinosaur from prehistoric DNA.
It's better to be dead than miserable.
The sooner we poison the remaining mosquitoes, the shorter time frogs will have to suffer from hunger, the fewer trout will survive to suffer drying-up lakes and rivers, the fewer will grow up, meanwhile, to be caught on hooks. The sooner we spray away all the flying insects http://www.cnn.com/2017/10/19/europe/insect-decline-germany/index.html, the less we'll be bothered by early morning bird-song and droppings on our windshields, and the fewer birds will be caught by cats or hit skyscraper windows.
We're doing other species a favour by destroying them.
And if 95% of everything is supposed to die to make way for new species, fresh evolution, and we're very likely to be among that great majority so much the better.
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Re: Maybe extinction of endangered species not so bad?

Postby wolfhnd on November 27th, 2017, 3:47 am 

Habitat destruction is a danger for any successful species. It is usually self correcting by way of population crashes. In the case of humans a population crash would not be a correction as humans have the power to take every other species to the verge of extinction during the crash.

Environmental regulations have been fairly successful in cleaning the air and water. That was the low hanging fruit. Additional progress is likely to be slower and more complex. I see no reason to give up hope.
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Re: Maybe extinction of endangered species not so bad?

Postby Serpent on November 27th, 2017, 10:40 am 

wolfhnd » November 27th, 2017, 2:47 am wrote:Environmental regulations have been fairly successful in cleaning the air and water.

What environmental regulations?
https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2017/jul/04/trump-emvironmental-rollback-epa-scrap-regulations
That was the low hanging fruit. Additional progress is likely to be slower and more complex. I see no reason to give up hope.

Here's one: http://www.businessinsider.com/trump-border-wall-construction-prototypes-photos-cbp-2017-10/#four-of-the-prototypes-are-concrete-walls-2

Here's another https://evolution.berkeley.edu/evolibrary/article/massextinct_10
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Re: Maybe extinction of endangered species not so bad?

Postby wolfhnd on November 27th, 2017, 4:57 pm 

It's much easier to find reasons to despair than to find reasons to have hope.

Over a billion people have been lifted out of poverty since 1990. This is likely leading to a slow down in population growth and the next phase may very well lead to a demand for what was previously a luxury, a reduction in overt pollution.

A lot of pollution has been exported over that decades to relatively poor countries by Western Europeans. Some fairness may actually be established as it is returned to the consumer countries. As the overall world wide standard of living normalized the poorer countries will focus more on pollution making environmental progress more uniform.
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Re: Maybe extinction of endangered species not so bad?

Postby Serpent on November 27th, 2017, 11:23 pm 

That would be very nice.
How long is it estimated to take?
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Re: Maybe extinction of endangered species not so bad?

Postby wolfhnd on November 28th, 2017, 4:18 am 

Serpent » Tue Nov 28, 2017 3:23 am wrote:That would be very nice.
How long is it estimated to take?


A hundred years? There are a lot of variables and the AI apocalypse may get us first.

There are so many ways we could go extinct environmental degradation is probably not at the top of the probability list. The other option are of course aggravated by human impact on the ecosystems. It's the microbial world that worries me the most. We see the effects on larger life forms but I'm not sure we have the same kind of insight into the microscopic ecosystem. I do know that current farming practices destroy biodiversity in soil.
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Re: Maybe extinction of endangered species not so bad?

Postby BioWizard on November 28th, 2017, 12:13 pm 

wolfhnd » 28 Nov 2017 03:18 am wrote:and the AI apocalypse may get us first.


At minimum, zetreque would survive that.
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Re: Maybe extinction of endangered species not so bad?

Postby Serpent on November 28th, 2017, 1:42 pm 

wolfhnd -- A hundred years?

And you honestly see that as likely - according to current trends? By no metrics within my ken is there a century to play out the way we're going right now. Nor do I see an imminent change of direction - unless the US ceases to be a main mover of events. I do see some hope of that, and in shifting attitudes, nascent cognizance, elsewhere in the world.

There are a lot of variables and the AI apocalypse may get us first.

I rate that quite low on my probability list. Infrastructure overload and/or economic collapse are more probable breaks in the time-line.

There are so many ways we could go extinct environmental degradation is probably not at the top of the probability list. The other option are of course aggravated by human impact on the ecosystems. It's the microbial world that worries me the most. We see the effects on larger life forms but I'm not sure we have the same kind of insight into the microscopic ecosystem. I do know that current farming practices destroy biodiversity in soil.

Current, and most of 19th and 20th century, farming practices kill the soil bacteria, the soil-conditioning worms, the soil-nourishing and anchoring plants, the plant-pollinating insects, the insect-eating, seed-carrying birds and rodents, the rodent-eating, seed-carrying carnivores, the protective hedgerows and wildlife-harbouring trees and the water that keeps them all alive. Modern farming is flat-out genocidal.
But that's what environmental degradation is. Cut a section out of the food cycle... Or worse, the air filtration system...
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Re: Maybe extinction of endangered species not so bad?

Postby wolfhnd on November 28th, 2017, 3:21 pm 

I still believe that if we go extinct it will be from "natural" causes.
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Re: Maybe extinction of endangered species not so bad?

Postby BioWizard on November 28th, 2017, 3:51 pm 

wolfhnd » 28 Nov 2017 02:21 pm wrote:I still believe that if we go extinct it will be from "natural" causes.


As opposed to "supernatural" causes? Sure.
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Re: Maybe extinction of endangered species not so bad?

Postby Serpent on November 28th, 2017, 4:25 pm 

If we get to vote, I'll take asteroid strike over nuclear holocaust.

But I think Wolfhnd means geo-genic extinction event, rather than man-made armageddon, alien disinfection or divine apocalypse.

I guess we do not get a vote.
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Re: Maybe extinction of endangered species not so bad?

Postby BioWizard on November 28th, 2017, 4:30 pm 

Serpent » 28 Nov 2017 03:25 pm wrote:If we get to vote, I'll take asteroid strike over nuclear holocaust.

But I think Wolfhnd means geo-genic extinction event, rather than man-made armageddon, alien disinfection or divine apocalypse.

I guess we do not get a vote.


Yeah, I knew he meant non-man-made and was just teasing. It's still interesting the extent to which most people think of man and man-made anything as being extrinsic to nature.
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Re: Maybe extinction of endangered species not so bad?

Postby wolfhnd on November 28th, 2017, 4:50 pm 

The point of the quotation marks was to make clear that there are no unnatural causes. That is only made necessary by certain generally understood conventions in the English language.
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Re: Maybe extinction of endangered species not so bad?

Postby BioWizard on November 28th, 2017, 4:52 pm 

wolfhnd » 28 Nov 2017 03:50 pm wrote:The point of the quotation marks was to make clear that there are no unnatural causes. That is only made necessary by certain generally understood conventions in the English language.


Yep, I got that too. But I didn’t let it stop me from teasing you.
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Re: Maybe extinction of endangered species not so bad?

Postby wolfhnd on November 28th, 2017, 4:55 pm 

I thought it was cleverly playing on the idea of natural causes vs homicidal causes of death.
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Re: Maybe extinction of endangered species not so bad?

Postby Serpent on November 28th, 2017, 8:38 pm 

BioWizard » November 28th, 2017, 3:30 pm wrote: It's still interesting the extent to which most people think of man and man-made anything as being extrinsic to nature.

That's the gut reaction based on experience.

I find it interesting how many people use "that's natural" or "a biological imperative", or "we evolved to" or "it's hard-wired" to justify a preference or excuse bad behaviour, yet still assume superiority over other animals; quite as many claim divine creation and dominion over other animals; while most in both schools condemn certain natural behaviours, stand firm on individual responsibility for crimes against humans, but take none at all for crimes against nature. It seems that man-as-part-of-nature is an infinitely pliable, compliant concept.

Other species have language, use tools and weapons, build shelters, practice deception, enslave and kill their own kind. Civilized man is the only one I know of that has not merely turned away from its generative and sustaining ecosystem, but actively against it. Civilized man has been at war with his environment for at least 6000 years.

I'd consider a category of suicidal causes.
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Re: Maybe extinction of endangered species not so bad?

Postby wolfhnd on November 28th, 2017, 9:33 pm 

"At war with his environment" sounds like the environment is a social construct which of course it is because it is an abstraction, an over simplification. The "real" environment has exterminated more species than man will ever have the opportunity to. You can not live in harmony with "nature" only equilibrium punctuated by natural disasters and eventual extinction.

Even equilibrium is an exaggeration because ecosystems are never static, they are partially self correcting. We don't see the brutal war of species vs species because willful ignorance and the buffer of civilization.
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Re: Maybe extinction of endangered species not so bad?

Postby BioWizard on November 28th, 2017, 9:46 pm 

It is true that other species can wreak havoc with their environment (beavers?) or wipe out other species. But there’s no living creature that does it as systematically or as intensly as humans do. Nobody’s saying that there’s not a continuum wolfhnd. It’s just that humans are so far ahead of everything else on that continuum that they may as well be in their own category. It has nothing to do with willful ignorance, you grump. :]
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Re: Maybe extinction of endangered species not so bad?

Postby Serpent on November 28th, 2017, 11:25 pm 

wolfhnd » November 28th, 2017, 8:33 pm wrote:"At war with his environment" sounds like the environment is a social construct which of course it is because it is an abstraction, an over simplification.

No squirrel or squid could possibly have made up any of those: social construct, abstraction or oversimplification. I didn't think it was simple - no war is simple! It's just a generally recognized classification of types of human engagement: overt violent hostilities, intended and expected to result in casualties and eventual victory by one side or the other.

The "real" environment has exterminated more species than man will ever have the opportunity to.

In what way, over what time-span? The ecosystem isn't responsible for geological events, such as vulcanos and earthquakes, which victimize all species indiscriminately. It's important to divide "nature" into categorical components: astronomical, geologic, climatic and biological. Only the biological ones fit into an ecosystem, which is contained by climate and geography, which is a result of long geological processes, on a planet surrounded by its astro-system. These several magnitudes of event take place on different scales of time and numbers. Yes, a single astronomical event can take out as many species in a year as human industry can in a couple of hundred, or climate in a couple of thousand, or geology in a couple of million - but no (other) biological entity can cause that kind of damage in any length of time - not even the most deadly virus.

You can not live in harmony with "nature" only equilibrium punctuated by natural disasters and eventual extinction.

Can you not? And yet, pre-civilized human societies survived for several thousand years in the same little patches of territory, while empires typically chew up much bigger territory in two to five centuries. Harmony doesn't have to mean amity, but it does require moderation - either hard-wired or self-imposed.

Even equilibrium is an exaggeration because ecosystems are never static, they are partially self correcting.

Equilibrium extends to the limits of self-correction. It's a system, with cycles of activity and process; destruction and restoration, integration and disintegration, motion and rest.
Push it beyond the limits of self-correction, and you have cascading extinctions. Targeted extinctions, using weapons unavailable to the target species, are uncorrectable: once the reef is dynamited, whatever lived in it, on it, around it, behind it; whatever came there to spawn or feed on the spawn, is gone forever.

We don't see the brutal war of species vs species because willful ignorance and the buffer of civilization.

Competition is not war. Predation is not war. Wolves kill individual groundhogs and caribou, but don't pour gasoline in groundhogs' burrows or spray poison gas from airplanes over migrating caribou herds. No damselfly ever decided to erase every last dragonfly off the face of the earth, by any means, including bounties, traps and the introduction from another continent of more voracious frogs... which will then turn on the native population of frogs...

The combination of scale, time, intensity, intent, means and rate of success are unique in the man vs nature conflict. Civilization is not a buffer to understanding the violence in nature - we brought that violence inside the city walls - but it does provide an effective bulwark against retaliation by nature --- until it suddenly and catastrophically fails.
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Re: Maybe extinction of endangered species not so bad?

Postby wolfhnd on November 29th, 2017, 12:37 am 

Sudden and catastrophic failure is relative. They are out there in nature but we don't see them because we are not there and they are local events. Bio's point is relevant as scale, rapidity, and extent go hand in hand with the ability to adapt to a multitude of environments and dramatically alter them. On the hand in the recent geological past large portions of land had every living thing, crushed, scraped, and frozen out of existence with no help from humans. There isn't much bio diversity under a mile of ice. Similar climatic change may have almost forced humans into extinction a mere 60 thousand years earlier. More relevantly 2.4 million years ago life almost extinguished itself by oxygenation of the atmosphere and glaciation. Humans are the planet's life best option should such convergence of factors happen once again for the exact same reason we are a significant threat, we can alter the environment in ways no other creature can.

Humans are a significant biological event but so far not on the scale of oxygen producing organisms. It takes time for the planet to adjust.
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Re: Maybe extinction of endangered species not so bad?

Postby BioWizard on November 29th, 2017, 10:46 am 

wolfhnd, I have to say you make an interesting point. I agree with Serpent that comparing human impact to geological impact might be a categorical error, but I still think you have an interesting point (which resonates with the point of the OP's article).

But the key to whether the planet (and humans) will survive human impact is exactly what you mentioned. Time. How much time the planet would need to adjust to the frequency and intensity of impact that we're doing onto it, and whether that time will be available to it.
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Re: Maybe extinction of endangered species not so bad?

Postby Serpent on November 29th, 2017, 4:34 pm 

wolfhnd » November 28th, 2017, 11:37 pm wrote:Sudden and catastrophic failure is relative.

That was directed at the bulwark of civilization that protects humans from nature. When one of those breaks down - sometimes by internal corruption and revolution, sometimes by natural phenomena like flood or drought, often by overuse of resources, most often by external conquest - it breaks down utterly: that city-state is no more; it has expired and gone to meet its maker; that is a late civilization.

They are out there in nature but we don't see them because we are not there and they are local events.

Exactly! Modern urban people can make up stories - cute ones about bunnies in pantaloons; scary ones about man-eating tigers; exciting ones about some adventurous man with a single-shot musket facing the wilderness all on his ownsome. Not-so civilized peoples actually are "out there", with actual skin - their own and the ones they've taken off other animals - in the game. Their stories are quite different.
The natural local events are one on one, or pack on herd - the damage done is locally contained.

Only highly civilized man is capable of causing damage far beyond any system's capacity for self-correction or recovery. For one of many examples, where decisions are made in a city 3000 miles away, by fat and comfortable foreigners with no stake or presence in the affected country -
https://www.culturalsurvival.org/publications/cultural-survival-quarterly/spraying-crops-eradicating-people# and blatant lies like this:
"Spraying a toxic chemical over large areas, including where people live and livestock graze, would not be tolerated in our country. We should not be spraying first and asking questions later."

are told to the media, just in case we paid any attention, or cared in the first place, while, in fact, this:
https://www.ecowatch.com/harvey-pesticide-naled-2484385387.htmlgoes on all the time.

Humans are a significant biological event but so far not on the scale of oxygen producing organisms.

Try building a house and then demolishing it. Which goes faster? Humans do not now, and never have built ecosystems. They have managed for long periods of time to occupy a relatively benign niche in some ecosystems, but they have been far and away more often destructive.
It takes time for the planet to adjust.

After we're gone, it will grow back in a billion years? Probably.
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Re: Maybe extinction of endangered specie not so bad?

Postby Braininvat on November 29th, 2017, 6:10 pm 

This chat went further than I expected. I agree that we would need more stringent definitions of words like "natural" and "sudden" and "catastrophe," to really evaluate what a sentient technological species can do on a planetary scale. It could be things we least suspected a few years ago will prove to be the largest generator of species die-offs, like the wide spread of plastic residue on land, freshwater, and oceans. I think there is a meaningful way to define "natural" in which we can clearly see that phthalates, BHA, dioxins, and a variety of petrochemical -based endocrine disruptors, flooding into ecosystems, has not been a part of the natural world until about 70-80 years ago.

Or a rogue AI could turn everything into processors....or paper clips. Paperclipocalypse!

We "create" new ecosystems every tiime we build a dam. A meadow may become a lake. Some species drown. Others move in, slowly. The question is of our relative valuation of pristine meadows versus a ready supply of irrigation water and tapwater. We have to be smart and see where there is room for compromise, or third alternatives that work and don't mean us starving to death. I suspect most of us would value preventing mass starvation over a tiny green frog. That valuation is "natural" to us.
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Re: Maybe extinction of endangered species not so bad?

Postby wolfhnd on November 29th, 2017, 6:45 pm 

Of course we are guessing that a frog is not an essential part of the ecosystems but I think it's a safe bet. The environmentalists however will say the frog is just a litmus test. There in lies the problem we are measuring the wrong components and should start at as you suggest the bio chemical and microscopic level if survival is the issue. That of course brings up your other point that you can't ignore the purely aesthetic contribution of ecosystems.

This topic has long been of interest to me because I grew up on the prairie lands that had recently been converted to wheat production. My dad remembered when most of the land was still wild grasses. That was around the end of the 19th century. By time I was born the entire area was a sea of wheat. In such conditions the effects of mono culture are readily apparent. Especially the elimination of entire species of birds and mammals.

Now I live near the Ozarks which were clear cut in a transformation almost as extreme as the conversion of the prairie to wheat. The difference is that the trees regrew and native species returned fairly rapidly but that same process would take a thousand years to replicate in places that were previously prairie. Restoration as an alternative was thus made clear to me to not be an alternative for the vast majority of land and illustrated that conservation was primarily focused on the margins where people find the ecosystem aesthetically valuable.

No till farming methods are making the land more attractive to wildlife but the native species can never return. This impressed on me the need to not see conservation just as the conservation of existing species but a need to accept that a replacement process was unavoidably.
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Re: Maybe extinction of endangered species not so bad?

Postby wolfhnd on November 29th, 2017, 7:06 pm 

It may be of interest to some the animals my dad saw as a child compared to me.

Turkeys, elk, deer, antelope, prairie chickens, wolves, carrier pigeon, and locusts. I saw pheasants and seagulls, that he would not have seen. Deer, turkey, antelope and prairie chickens have been successfully reintroduced. Other non indigenous species such as English sparrows, and starlings are flourishing.

I think you have to be careful denigrating all non native species when available habitat has changed. What makes a prairie chicken for example more intrinsically valuable and than a pheasant?
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Re: Maybe extinction of endangered species not so bad?

Postby Serpent on November 29th, 2017, 7:45 pm 

I think we'll soon find out how well the compromises have turned out. More specifically, how essential flying insects had been to the grains and fruits that feed most of humanity.
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