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IVORY-BILLS  LiVE???!  ...

=> THE blog devoted to news and commentary on the most iconic bird in American ornithology, the Ivory-billed Woodpecker (IBWO)... and... sometimes other schtuff.

Web ivorybills.blogspot.com

"....The truth is out there."

-- Dr. Jerome Jackson, 2002 (... & Agent Fox Mulder)

“There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, than are dreamt of in your philosophy.”

-- Hamlet

"All truth passes through 3 stages: First it is ridiculed. Second, it is violently opposed. Third, it is accepted as self-evident."

-- Arthur Schopenhauer

Monday, April 21, 2008


-- A Parable --


An old parable tells of a young boy who spies an old man early one morning walking along the shoreline, picking up starfish in the sand and tossing them into the sea. The boy runs up and asks, "What are you doing old man?" To which the man explains, "These starfish were stranded in the sand overnight by the tide, and if they don't get back in the water before the sun rises they will bake and die here." The boy looks far down the shoreline and says, "but old man there are thousands of starfish along this beach, what possible difference do you think your efforts can make?" The old man picks up another, tossing it into the waves, and responds, "it made a difference to THAT one."

Our efforts in conservation are frankly miniscule, and almost meaningless, in the grand scheme of things, yet it is still imperative we make such efforts on behalf of whatever remnant of moral authority we have as humans.
I'd almost rather not write this post but increasingly feel pushed to, since skeptics now give so much weight to the notion that dollars spent on the IBWO is wasted while other endangered species go begging. OPEN YOUR EYES! --- MOST current endangered species, as well as most wild vertebrate life, on this continent WILL be largely GONE within a few hundred years no matter how short-term money is spent; THAT is the unstoppable trajectory that human development is on; if someone can paint me a realistic scenario in which that is NOT the case I'd be curious to see it.

People are looking 25-50 years into the future and believing that blip of time means something. It doesn't. You can kiss the condors and whooping cranes and spotted owls and most wood warblers, etc. etc. etc. goodbye. Such is the dirty little secret of human "progress." Still, morally, those of us who care about such things have no choice but to make the effort to save them anyway, for however briefly we can. It is really no different than spending enormous sums of money on medical procedures for individuals with cancer, or heart disease, or stroke, or Alzheimers, etc. to extend their lives for 5 or 10 or even 25 years --- even though they/we are all going to die in the end. If we make such efforts for individuals we should certainly do so for whole species, even if doomed. We can save some of these species long enough that our grandchildren, maybe even our great grandchildren, can see them, but if you think your great grandchildren's great grandchildren will see them you are dreaming, with little sense of the speed of oncoming changes. Apologies for my pessimism....

Working to save the Ivory-bill, even if it turned out to be gone, just might entail preserving more land and habitat than work on behalf of almost any other species now under consideration. I'm not convinced the $27 million is a wise use of dollars... problem is, I'm not convinced it isn't, and I still find the naysayers' arguments just a tad too simplistic and pollyannish about how much good it would automatically do elsewhere. Like so much in this debate, that is one great big unsettled... MAYBE.

Yes, almost as depressing as the NWO, Chemtrails, and FEMA camps.
The hypothesis that human development will continue unchecked until we have replaced all of nature with people, technology, and waste is just that: a hypothesis. There are many alternative hypotheses put forward, ranging from the apocalyptic to the malthusian (e.g. limits to growth, peak oil, etc.) to the utopian (enlightenment and harmony through education, culture, and sustainable technology). All of these have many perfectly reasonable and rational adherents, as well as many lunatic extremist followers. The real future of course will probably take none of these pure forms, instead being a strange chimera of these and many other influences that we haven't begun to imagine. So don't get hopeless about a hypothesis. Betting that the future will be like the present, only more so, has not historically been a very good bet in the long term, especially when you are in the midst of one of history's widely scattered boom times, as we are now.

Keep tossing those starfish back in!
Thanks for the input Bill; you're cautionary words remind me a bit of the old movie, "The Hellstrom Chronicles," in which it is insects, not humans, who finally take over the globe; long-term predictions are indeed pure hypothesis.
Still, if you asked people 300 years ago would you like to live in a world in which 2000+ lb. objects come hurtling down concrete pathways at 35-70 mph. and metal canisters full of humans occasionally fall from the skies, they would scream 'NO'. But the step-by-step development of these things (cars, planes, and so much more) integrates them into society in such a way that they aren't merely accepted, they become virtual necessities. For convenience and efficiency and even just fun we constantly make deals with the devil, and we are so technologically clever it's difficult to see any end to it --- a sort of insidious gradual process reminiscent of the proverbial frog in the pot of water brought to boiling; but hey neither of us will be here in 200-300 yrs. to see what has come to pass, so for now I agree, tossing some starfish back is all we can do.
Parable adapted for the reality of the situation:

Early one morning while walking along the shoreline, a young boy spies an old man scooping up and tossing sand into the sea. The boy runs up and asks, "What are you doing old man?" To which the man explains, "These sea stars were stranded in the sand overnight by the tide, and if they don't get back in the water before the sun rises they will bake and die here." The boy looks far down the shoreline and says, "but old man, I cannot see any sea stars along this beach; what possible difference do you think your efforts can make?" The old man bends over and scoops up more sand and tosses it to the sea, believing the starfish are there but just hard to see and his efforts are not in vain. Meanwhile, the young boy looks over at the dunes and sees another tern nest squashed by dune buggies and thinks, shaking his head, that together they could have made a difference to THAT one if it weren't for the old man's blindness to rational evidence.

This isn't about just two types of error in a diagnosis--doing something even though the bird is extinct or not doing something and the bird exists. It's about a multitude of species at imminent risk and employing a rational, evidence-based mechanism for decisions.
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