New Internationalist

Editor’s Letter

Issue 288

Endangered
species

FROM THIS MONTH'S EDITOR

Richard Swift

I REMEMBER lying on the beach when the dolphins came into the cove. They started diving about in the water, but you could barely make them out from the shore. My friend Terry handed me his binoculars so I could take a closer look. The dolphins were frolicking without any apparent purpose ­ purposeless porpoises. I remember the rush of exquisite happiness that passed through me as one of them did a magnificent backflip ­ obviously just for the hell of it.

I would wager that our fellow wild creatures have provoked this feeling in most of us from time to time. The chorus of peeping frogs that greets the spring, the magnificently fierce glare of a snowy owl grounded on a winter trail, or the wild turkey and her adolescent family strutting boldly across the road one Thanksgiving evening as if to say 'catch us if you can': what would life be like without such encounters? One hesitates even to contemplate. We would be diminished and left alone in our paved-over world where the security and predictability we have created never quite seem to assuage our fears.

The eyes were rolling amongst my fellow editors when I expressed interest in tackling this endangered-species issue. My reputation as an insensitive North American meat-eater would seem to have precluded me from such an undertaking. They were, of course, partly right. I have always, for instance, had an aversion to dogs (at least as pets) who seem to me to alternate between being vicious and servile. I guess you can't be expected to like all species, just as not all people appeal.

But, although connected, animal rights and the politics of species conservation are not the same thing. Sometimes the two can collide with moral dilemmas and become quite complex: when individual animals endanger a threatened species as a whole; when the overpopulation of one species threatens another; when the key to providing local support against the destruction of rainforest or other threatened habitat is the sustainable use of local fauna.

While this month's issue has not dealt with such conflict in detail, it has tried to give a sense of the complexities of saving other species and, in the process, saving ourselves. It has left me with the sense that the defence of biodiversity must be at the centre of any radical green vision. For, as they like to say down at the environmental consultant's office, 'Mother Nature always bats last'.

Richard Swift

for the New Internationalist Co-operative

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©Copyright: New Internationalist 1997


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