our species, ourselves

A highly furstrating hurdle in environmentalism is telling people what you mean by throwing around terms like ‘biodiversity’ and ‘stability’ and ‘biodiversity for stable and sustainable ecosystems’. These are loaded word, which are nestled comfortably in the ephemeral studies of chaos & order.

So when the Endangered Species Act is looked at with scrutiny, what exactly does each section, each paragraph mean? And what purpose do they hold?

Recently, the ESA is facing a montrous overhaul. The bill being put forward, in the opinion of JR Clark, Defenders of Wildlife VP, it “”takes a wrecking ball to the whole Endangered Species Act” by changing its mission, disabling enforcement tools and loosening controls on agencies like the Forest Service and the Army Corps of Engineers.””

Contesting this pessimism, and boasting some optimism, Jim Sims, of Partnership for the West, “said that the draft has a “common-sense” emphasis on incremental improvements that are achievable, rather than on long-term recovery that may take decades. “The aspirational change is necessary,” he said. “It’s more important to incrementally improve the species’ health as much as we can rather than set the bar at total and complete recovery, and nothing else.””

One should never forget that the ESA is an act for all seasons – the usefullness of it has stretched far and wide, to pulling to plugs of many environmentally un-sound projects.

I’m just going to quote the following straight from the Horse’s mouth, and comment below:

On the issue of what constitutes the “best available science” for making and supporting decisions under the law, the draft measure takes the unusual step of giving one scientific method preference over another. It calls for “empirical data” – which can be hard to obtain when a species’s numbers are small and scattered – to be used when possible. More common currently are studies based on statistical models of a species’s number, range and viability.

The draft legislation also sets new restrictions for mapping the territory considered essential for the recovery of an endangered species. It would limit such territory, called “critical habitat,” to areas currently occupied by the species; the law now allows for the inclusion of a larger portion of the species’s historic range. In the new proposal, expansion of the current range is possible only if that range is inadequate to prevent the species’s extinction.

“It shortchanges habitat protection,” said Ms. Clark of Defenders of Wildlife. “And habitat destruction is the primary reason for most species becoming endangered.” She added that the law “places almost overwhelming restrictions on sound science.”

Mr. Sims, in turn, argued that some of the law’s proponents care more about keeping land unused than ending threats of extinction. “This is the Endangered Species Act,” he said. “I would argue that a great majority of the American people believe that a focus on efforts to recover a species are more important than efforts to lock up land.”

Thinking back to man’s obsession with time and space, and the non-duality of duality and non-duality, some interesting social commentary materializes over the Golden Species-Area relationship. Of course, it would be foolish to pour blood, sweat, and tears into protecting the species without understanding their tenure within their habitat, how dependent they are, as well as how mobile, etc.

On a slightly different note, there is a heady cry from an anthropologist’s perspective which brings us back to the Essence of the Thing. Is it possible to protect some species if their critical numbers are so fine-tuned by herding them around as reduce them to mere statistics? That is to say, can some things fall outside the realm of mathematics? Sociologists would argue back that being able to poll people’s perceptions, happiness, and well-being would illicit exactly the statistics you need. And there are plenty more who would say that animals are a subset of human needs to begin with, so it makes perfect sense.

Unfortunately, human needs are slipping into a realm of self-sufficiency vis-a-vis artificial sustenance. For example, imagine a word in which climate change has rendered back-country hiking a health hazard, and virtual reality is unleashed from the gates to fill these niche needs in our civilization with ease.

Instead of human capital, financial capital, physical capital, etc., I’ve argued before that cultural capital shoudl play in along-side these bottom-line figures, and be blown out of proportion where necessary. I’m sure the statistics exist to give it enough Net Present Value to eclipse many petty cost-benefit analyses which put forth ideas like ‘let the markets rule the environment, instead of the ESA.”

All quotes from this NY Times article.

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