I, People, People Conservation :) Response to Thetardydodo

 ***Disclaimer, this is an opinion, please do not hold it against me, I am challenging my own views by allowing you to, and I change my views all the time so please...give me a chance to make that change. If you disagree, I can accept that, but please do not make this personal. Argue my points, not me***

(Read TheTardyDodo's story about wildlife conservation first)

(Copied pasted from a comment of mine in unrelated story)*****So are we to care for our lesser minded relatives? Or should we focus on what this intellect is here for... a long lived species? I have the opinion that before we start worrying about turtles on islands that may go extinct, we should ensure that we're looking out for number one. That means setting up the whole of the human race as best as possible, and figuring out long term strategies that ensure our survival. I think the same thoughts in regards to the overblown global warming saga, the only reason I would worry about the earth going through climatic thrashes, is if it means trouble for our species. Because in the end, the worst that can come from us is another great extinction, and after each extinction is a flourish of variation amongst the animals of the earth. So no matter how much damage we do to the earths creatures, life will go on as long as this planet favours it, evolving through changing weather. So why should we try to help other species unless their absence will directly harm us, or if they offer something we cannot gain elsewhere (One could argue in favour of whales and dolphins, but probably not cheetah or tiger.) This will be pretty heartless to many people, but in the bigger picture it’s only realistic, and creatures will eventually fill an empty niche once again. *****


I somewhat disagree in regards to what you say about damage wrought by human society. I would say that any damage done by us is short-term and mostly in the form of converting materials…into other materials. All of which is reversible given one-thousand years of non-human activity (Which some people consider inevitable). Materials are constantly being developed and most recently many companies have realised that they can not maintain the same resource usage they had been, and are figuring out new ways to use old materials. That’s market forces for you; I have a pretty good feeling that market forces will deal with peak-oil…but that’s another story.

I agree with your assessment of environment, we are biological, although our development is unprecedented in a biological sense. Looking at a graph of human population growth, the jumps from the agricultural revolution and then the massive continuing leap after the industrial revolution, we are as much a part of the planet as weather and wild-life, but we have the advantage of sentience/higher level thought. We have surpassed all life before us in intelligence and have beaten them in one area that is very crucial. We create niches for ourselves; we have little or no niche restrictions. We can build ourselves a comfortable existence in every environment. Intelligence has given us a power over our environment we need to consider the implications of.

Are we to assume that we are the protectors of our earth? As the only intelligent life form able to readily communicate understandably, should we be concerned for the other life forms that didn’t jump on the mammalian road to intelligence? I’m dubious about this.

I think we have mastered the basics, the only evidence I have for this is that we are able to spread to the most remote regions of the earth and live with relative comfort. We need the earth’s framework, for now, and it’s thanks to the earth that we are in this advantageous position. We certainly have not mastered the basics, not until we are able to extend our niche to space or until we have some true biological dominance. We might be biological on basis, but take away the technology, and you’re expecting a few billion people to die worldwide. Without our current industry and trade, the environment cannot hold a population of six billion people. Even if we shut down the factories and began farming, billions die. Like it or not, we are caught in our own trap. We need the earth, but we also need to keep our human systems running strong. One day we will be able to seek niches far far away, or possibly within the earth, but today we are caught on this rock that sustains that which we are incapable of.


I’m sceptical in regards to your paragraph on irreversible change. The conservation movement is not primarily set up to slow planetary system damage, because very little damage can be done. Running out of time seems like a doomsday prophesy, the planetary system might thrash through changes, but I doubt it would reach a ‘too late for anything’ point. If anything it would become a cold barren wasteland for a few thousand years, or a dry scorching desert…and those will occur whether we do or don’t try to conserve the environment. Even if the climate does go to extremes (As has happened many times through biological history) we still have a big chance of surviving, our intelligence would get us through a massive planetary change…or at least some of us.

Economics provides a good example of why it would not reach a critical point. Supply and demand. We, the people, are the demanders… we can demand as much as we want, but if the environment (Or our knowledge) cannot provide, then the curve must fall. At the moment the curve of demand is higher then the supply (In my abstract opinion) this is because the number of people on earth demanding is higher then the number that are being supplied. That is why in Africa and other third world countries the death rates are significantly higher then western world. We in the west are supplied with more then we demand, the third world needs more supplies. In the meantime the demand must fall in those third world countries, unless we provide them with supply, they will demand and die. In a long run future scenario one could imagine the western world needing to cut back or become more inventive with their demand, conversation and recycling would happen ‘naturally’ in this case (As I said earlier, some companies have clicked onto this) . We would not continue at the same demand level while our environment failed the supply, instead our demand would fall with it, naturally many would die, either that or new technologies would rise from the demand. That’s the only reason I can never see a time when we have no more time, I can see a time where we need to make significant changes in response to pressure, but humanity would prevail. There will be no point where the western world suddenly switches to a third world set-up.

As for intergenerational equity, I have a very strong argument in favour of ignoring that. We might say ‘our children deserve to experience the earth in its pristine form. Which makes many assumptions, amongst which the idea that people take the time to enjoy nature. Perhaps, in our primitivist times, they might have cancelled the invention of the wheel and concrete in favour of keeping a small population that does nothing by appreciate nature within nature’s laws. Somewhat like the Neanderthals I suppose; they lived a whopping 90,000 years without developing any marked technologies and without any population explosions…they made do with camp-fires and small jewellery, simple lives make for a happier species perhaps, it certainly did not seem that they were planning on becoming technological any time soon. We’ve only been here about 60,000 years, and look what we’ve done in that time compared to the other hominids.

My argument against intergenerational equity is the idea that we might forget about our descendants, in favour of helping the current Humans across the globe. People are starving in poorer nations; people are in pain, without medical care. Rather then putting efforts towards maintaining species like the cheetah that would die without our help anyway. The average length of a predator species is a mere 5 million years, if we live longer than that should we really string along other species that might die anyway? The cheetah is pretty much guaranteed to die out unless we continue to extend the species, the will never achive predatory dominance again, not with such little genetic variation. I suspect the same of many of the species we string along…we’re not helping them, we’re doing it for our own warm fuzzies, so that we feel like we are making a difference…what we should really be doing is switching all that funding away from species conservation and putting it towards Human-aid. I would always value a human life above animals, and each human experience is of equal importance…but current experiences should trump possible future lives.

Have to agree on sloppy development, although with no advanced civilisation to compare ourselves to, we are the most developed species we know, business or otherwise. Our immature approach is understandable given the age of our industrially advanced society, only a few hundred years since business became global. Call me an optimist, I think we will improve.

And moral imperative. It could be argued that the reason we should conserve is because we are the only ones who see the need for this to be done, the only creature with enough free time to ponder and plan for our earth. As the self-designated smarties of the planet, we might also title ourselves as its keepers, and seek to keep it pristine…in which case lets start the population bottleneck now, neuter anyone?

I do not think we are so destructive, more transformative. Everything we destroy is a direct result of the natural evolution that led us here; the destruction/transformation is as natural as we are.

Conservation as an access point towards understanding the natural world and our impacts on it: I would agree, I think we would need to look for valid reasons to conserve, rather then picking big cute animals like pandas and tigers, we might look for systems where our impacts might have possible future consequences. This could involve aiding algae blooms, or restricting them, helping encourage genetic diversity by breeding separate sub-species, rather then helping extinction by breeding second cousins in zoos. We are connected to the world, but with our intelligence we should be able to approach conservation from an angle with makes sense, rather then the current programs which all seem very bleeding heart and in the end are actually harming the systems they try to aid.

 Who are we? As a species? We have something special which has put us in this position, so what are we to make of our place on this planet? We need to see the world as our nursery before the real game, which comes later once technological development become godly in nature. I would hope an observer species, no matter how intellectually advanced they might be, would appreciate the world Humanity is growing up in. I would hope an observer species had passed through similar phases of development and might either aid us in our development, or leave us until we develop to a level close enough to their own. We should not be seen as a scourge, as we have collectively done all we could in aiding our race. To ‘save the planet’ by wiping us out would achieve nothing more then a massive boom in diversity over the next few million years, and who’s to say a new intelligent form wouldn’t result from that extinction like we resulted from the last? Anyone for sentient bird-people? They’re the prime contender for the next big variety. Mammals scurried under the dinosaurs’ feet before taking off…just as birds fly/scurry under ours…and increasingly they are being shown to have some pretty impressive intelligent attributes. So by ‘saving’ the earth, the observer species may just be setting the stage for a new species to take hold.

It would be hard to judge us as a scourge of life, when we are a part of life’s process.

It’s too hard to say what kind of species we would want to be, especially with no examples available as to what an intelligent species might be. Sure, if the fossil record displayed a lot of trace metal and signs of technology around the dinosaur time, we might argue that we should definitely halt development to avoid the fate of the previous intelligent form, but we have no such examples. So we are only doing the best we know how, any less and we might as well be primitive. We’re not wrecking the place, just transforming it into a generally people friendly environment. Perhaps we are not the teenagers but the elderly? Or even the child? We’re just trying to get cosy.

Life does love life, and I think Intelligence loves customisation and comfort. If we are to put effort into conservation, we need to be very clear as to our reasons why, and what the opportunity cost of such efforts is. Millions are spent on the cheetah, and yet science tells us the cheetah is beyond us now as most diversity is long gone. Millions are spent on setting up tortoises on the Galapagos islands, simply because we disrupted them in colonial times. Isn’t that ironic? We’re helping them when we were the ones who disrupted them…so in effect we are disrupting them more by applying the idea that we should treat animals we are trying to conserve as if they had never known us. Something about that seems short sighted, they have known us, and we would be better off considering how to continue their lineages in reserves or zoos effectively.

A species that can consider it’s place in the world, should consider the world that put it in its place. This does not mean pretending we can return our reserves to the same variation they were in before we came along, or that we should be pumping millions into attempting a weird kind of aided stasis for other species. What we should be doing is helping the people, first and foremost, homeless, hungry and hopeless. After that, once every human has the chance to enjoy a comfortable human experience now and into the future (Recycling and material conservation incorporated), we might then look at choosing what species we have a chance of helping and do whatever we can.

In short, help the people first. The earth can look after itself.

One last thing, call me an optimist but I think we can be a better world without guns and warfare, and would be immensely improved if we got together as one world instead of nations with all our petty disputes.

Peace out.

smebro smebro
22-25, M
8 Responses Jul 17, 2007

Type your comment here...

Maybe it was partly apologist, if only to show I'm not completely sold on my own points. I did walk away from the type-up above yesterday with slight unease. Some of what I said did not float with me, including when I pondered the difference between transformation and destruction and found myself dubious over my opinion that we are transforming. Rubbish dumps will degrade, in time, but for now we had effectively rendered that material useless. <br />
If I was truly doing this for my own gain, I would have kept my counter-argument and likely also the original to myself. Or If I really wanted to, as I actually did yesterday, I might remove this original post for fear it would strike up a hot reply. I did not do this because I respect Ellegarto, and I believe I can take on whatever criticism my outlook receives, and alter it if need be (Given appropriate facts and figures of course, some of which I might come across in my own research). <br />
Only today I read an article in New Scientist about petroleum, seems they love to scare us about the old black gold running out. There’s certainly something to be said for plastics and oil, and the trouble we’re in if we lose oil. <br />
I’m sorry Cellainn, I had to do it, because I was doubting some of my points and also because I wanted to provide an example of my flexibility. I can, even if only for awhile, twist my opinion to suit. In this case I wanted to provide some counter-arguments that others might have already thoughts of. I agree with much of what you say and doubt we’re bad enough to destroy a planet completely, I think most people are good, and a good person will not blow up the world. On the other hand not everyone thinks the same, some people believe a world-wide disaster because of war or environmental catastrophe is inevitable, it’s interesting to try and see the world that way for awhile.<br />
And global warming is nothing new, so I’m still holding back my cards on that one. (By nothing new I mean in the history of the earth) Let alone the fact that they are telling us to conserve power, I do, and then I look across at office buildings that are lit up all night long. Makes my effort pretty small.<br />
I like the idea of people vanishing, I’m especially interested in the first thirty years of wildlife that takes over the built-up areas.<br />
, I wonder what shape dogs would eventually select into? We have given them a pretty neat fall-back option in our absence, amazing genetic variation, It wouldn’t take long for the best genes in dogs to quickly eradicate the less favourable, three generations perhaps? Probably resulting in a predator mutt.(Off topic)<br />
And to TardyDodo, I will reply to your email. If I am displaying apologetic behaviour, what of it? Are my points any less valid in either argument? I admit I do take a more emotional driven approach in the rebuttal, as one of the strongest cases for conservation is the very fact that many people perceive it as necessary on an almost completely emotional basis, logically it seems we should look out for humans as number one…but imagine the earth as a mother, carer, giver of life…and then you ‘feel’ a maternal/paternal bond with the dirt and systems that run on it. The facts all depend on a tug of the heart (Look at the poor cheetah, how its life is in containment/Look at the cute panda, with its bamboo forests disappearing), we need to ‘feel’ that the earth holds a higher value then our own advancement if we are to believe in conservation.<br />
My layout is simply what is more comfortable for me at work. When I have to make calls every few minutes that last me up to 5 minutes, I can rarely hold the train of thought unless I continue to re-read what I’ve written, so I choose to reply in block by block, paragraph, call, paragraph, call.<br />
So, I don’t know if you will agree that I was truly flexible in my counter-argument, as I was putting effort in to disagree with many of my points and so was not ‘truly’ disagreeing. I did find the exercise useful, perhaps in the future I will look back and say ‘I was only trying to please everyone by showing two opinions, therefore avoiding heated argument’ or perhaps I really am that flexible with my opinion on this topic (How could I not be, given that I am neither climatologist nor biologist?). When I originally asked you to provide your opinion on conservation ThetardyDodo, I said I was flexible on this topic. I think the above is the best example of my current views, but the rebuttal (Hopefully) displays my reservations.

Having read the disclaimer, read our dear author's response and having reading between the lines, as well as having read the counterpoint post, I am not convinced of this being "a true Sophist in action". :) There is simply too much ancillary apologism. I do not say this as a criticism of Smebro, whom I admire for his intellectual endeavour and seeking of his own truths, I am just acknowledging that we are all humans first, and philosophers second.

I simply meant to say, Celainn, that it is within our power to render the planet uninhabitable. We are not alone on this earth - do the other residents have no rights? Who speaks for them? Man's marvelous intellect is supposed to make him a good custodian of this remarkable place - floating in a vast, inhospitable night - not its destroyer. As to Smebro arguing with himself, I don't think this is "playing to the gallery," just a true Sophist in action, working both sides of the street simply for the exercise.

I know you seek the truth, but to me, arguing against yourself seems to be on the verge of approval seeking behaviour. I would feel that your time would be just as well spent looking over what you have written, rather than arguing against it. Are people reacting to your ideas, or the way that you have presented them? After all, people are emotional beings first and rational second, no matter what they might claim. If you are able to learn how to present controversial, contrarian and hostile views in a way that people can digest and consider, then that is a true contribution to advancing other people's knowledge. One thing I think you might want to focus on would be the principle of QUALITY not quantity. Point by point rebuttal is suited to formal debating or conversation. In a setting like this, presenting a position, a perspective, through narrative and through structured prose strikes me as being far more suitable.

I'm getting the rating many think I deserve. To provide an example of how flexible I am with this argument, I will argue against myself. Expect Smebro's response to Smebro soon, where I will adamantly argue against myself.

Ouch. Okay, I really want to delete this one now...But Im going to bite my tongue and accept whatever anyone else says. Please, my failings are a result of my youth so do not bite me for it. And what are you comparing human greed, short sightedness and stupidity to?

This is one of the most arrogant, naive, and narcissistic pieces I have ever read in my life. You have failed to understand that all life is interconnected and interdependent. Further, you have fallen for the oldest bit of human twaddle in the toolkit, that the human ability to think equates with superiority - greater overall benefit. I love Vermeer, but I would trade every Vermeer ever painted for air I could breathe. Indeed, it is our ability to think that has caused the trouble in the first place. Nature, my friend, can not take care of itself. We have flexed our muscles and demonstrated beyond debate that we are mighty enough, greedy enough, short-sighted enough, and just plain stupid enough, to take down the whole planet.