Month 3, Day 29: Who Cares About Some Hapless Toad?

I read an article at the GOS which noted a new piece in Scientific American outlining a whole mess of different problems we’ll be facing in years to come if we want to keep the planet habitable for humans and other life. The whole list is pretty depressing (what a surprise!). I selected one area on which to base a letter to Interior Secretary Ken Salazar.

Dear Secretary Salazar,

In a newly published article in Scientific American, environmental scientist Jonathan Foley describes nine separate thresholds below which different environmental systems must remain if we are to maintain the health of our planet. Among these is the crucial area of biodiversity loss.

The scientific community notes that the current rate at which we are depleting the diversity of the Earth’s flora and fauna is at least 100 times the historic average, and easily ten times what could be considered a safe measure.

Biodiversity is critical for the planet’s long-term survivability, because it is through a wide spectrum of life-forms that ecological resilience is maintained. Monocultures are more prone to disease, predation and the devastating effects of ecological shifts. If a population depends primarily on a single food source, a crop failure can devastate an entire population inside a season — the lesson of the Irish potato famine.

It is crucial that the Department of the Interior make efforts to educate Americans about the importance of biodiversity in maintaining our country’s natural resources for future generations. It is increasingly apparent that the rich web of life upon which we all depend is far more fragile than has been assumed. Our collective behavior needs to change if we are to survive as a culture and as a species.

It’s equally important that the DOI be more proactive with regulatory initiatives to protect threatened species and habitats. There is no room left for giveaways to corporate special interest groups. While so-called “charismatic megafauna” may have their own constituencies, many of the life-forms facing extinction are obscure and seemingly insignificant. But ecological science has demonstrated time and time again how even the smallest creatures have crucial roles in the functioning of our environment.

Humanity’s rapid expansion and exploitation of the Earth’s resources has turned out to be a mixed blessing, providing luxurious lifestyles for some while triggering potentially catastrophic effects on our climate and biosphere. I urge the Department of the Interior to be even more proactive in educating Americans about the dangers we face — and to act vigorously to protect “the least among us.”

Thank you,

Warren Senders

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