Let's take just one issue—should humans assist wildlife threatened by climate change to move to new habitat? Some species, such as mountain-dwelling pikas, are already moving to higher altitudes. But eventually they will run out of mountain. Should we spend scarce resources to move the animals to still-cold locations? What about the animals they might be displacing, the ecosystems their presence would change? Should a threatened species be bred in captivity in the hope that someday suitable habitat will be found or re-created? How much effort should be invested in constructing or maintaining wildlife corridors, open lands that could allow threatened species to reach their own habitats? How much of our scare resources should be directed at research to figure out all these potentially conflicting, clearly complex issues? Who gets to decide which species we save and which simply flicker out?
And in a new twist to the restoration management question, should extinct species be revived when technology permits? Would the world be better if Leopold's Monument to a Pigeon could be taken down—because pigeons once again do darken the sky? (see video in last week's Topic 1 discussion). Or is the threat of extinction a little like some say about individual human death—something that focuses us to take care of what we have because it won't last forever?
Please think about how Leopold valued wildlife and land while reading his essay "Thinking Like a Mountain" (Course Resources). For additional though not required insights, listen to this audio reflection on another famous Leopold essay, "The Land Ethic."
And then think about wolves or another iconic animal that is absent from the natural world where most humans live. Applying what you've learned in this course, do you think that animals should be restored? Why or why not? Could it happen or not? Is the land ethic a helpful guide to such practical every day decision making in your relationship with wildlife and the natural world?
The extinction of species and origin of species is a natural phenomenon that occurs in nature. There have been five massive mass extinctions so far in recorded history, the last of which caused extinction of dinosaurs. But, in the last century there has been an increase in the rate of disappearance of species which can be attributed to human action. So, there is an urgent need to initiate corrective actions to maintain ecological diversity. But, when the number of individuals in that particular species has reached a critical point of 200, there is no need to spend huge amount if resources on it as they will not be saved from extinction.
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