Newspaper article The Tuscaloosa News

ECOVIEWS: X Is for Extinct Unless We Do Something about It

Newspaper article The Tuscaloosa News

ECOVIEWS: X Is for Extinct Unless We Do Something about It

Article excerpt

X is EXTINCT; he thinks everything bad,

That was not invented, when he was a lad.

So reads the ditty for the letter X in "Old Fashioned Mother Goose Nursery Rhymes." Except for X and U (the unicorn), the letters of the alphabet in this bizarre little book are represented by real animals. Apparently, the authors, none of whom appear to have been a goose, could not think of any animal to represent the letter X.

I came across the book recently in my basement. Having heard that some parents today censor Mother Goose because they consider the stories a bit too violent for children, I decided to take a look at this edition published nearly a century ago. Indeed, Jack and Jill did fall down the hill, and the sparrow did kill cock robin. But, hey, those things happen. Then I looked at the drawing of X, a hollow-eyed, grinning creature wearing a topcoat and vest. Its scary face resembles the skull of an evil, large beaked bird with teeth.

I remember not caring much for the animal pictures in this book as a child and being, in fact, a little frightened. Upon reflection, I wonder if reading a book that makes one a little frightened of "extinct" might perhaps have been a good idea. Growing up with concern, or even dread, about having more "extincts" around is not such a bad thing -- then or now.

Most people today are aware that the extinction rate of plants and animals worldwide has increased to a level unprecedented in human history. Everyone should feel a little uneasy about the prospects of future extinctions. When we lose a species, we decrease the world's biological diversity. High biological diversity broadens the base of raw materials and biological products we depend on for existence. No reasonable person today should deny that plants and animals, some yet to be discovered, provide the source for new foods and medicines. Also, the biodiversity inherent in natural systems enhances the pleasure and emotional health of many of us.

Anyone who supports current activities that can lead to the demise of another species is rationalizing what extinction means. Old fashioned extinctions, such as Tyrannosaurus rex and the other dinosaurs and the giant ferns of the Carboniferous Period, are not something to feel guilty about. …

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