ECOVIEWS: President, Congress Need to Consider Biodiversity

Article excerpt

The election is over, and everyone can heave a huge sigh of relief. Everyone except the winners, who need to tackle the next phase in the cycle: doing the job for which they were elected. For President Barack Obama and Congress this should include addressing a topic that went virtually unmentioned during the campaigns: the environment.

Sure, climate change -- aka global warming -- was hurled around like a hot potato from time to time, but no one is talking about a more tangible and readily solvable environmental issue -- our declining biodiversity. I have written about biodiversity many times since E. O. Wilson of Harvard University coined the word itself almost a quarter of a century ago.

In the book "Biodiversity," he presented some alarming facts -- facts that we should not ignore if we enjoy living on Earth as we know it. We will be well-served to reconsider some of the concepts he presented. Most people, including many members of Congress, still do not grasp the urgency or the depth of the problem.

In short, we are measurably losing life on a daily basis. Tropical forests continue to be a prime example because their destruction is causing a species extinction rate rivaling anything Earth has experienced in

65 million years.

Giant meteorites colliding with Earth caused previous mass extinctions. And even if human civilization had been in place, we could not have prevented the inevitable destruction and elimination of species. Today, we are losing both plant and animal species at an alarming rate; not only in the tropics but worldwide. And since people represent the meteors in this case, we can most certainly control their trajectory.

Compelling reasons for preserving the world's biodiversity are endless. From a purely anthropocentric view, how many plants or animals have traits that could be of value in the field of medicine? Every time another species goes extinct, we lose the opportunity to find out.

But doomsday predictions annoy most people. They tend to engender a feeling of helplessness, which can make people denounce the messenger, ignore the message, or both. …