War against Nature Threatens Humankind

By McCarthy, Colman | National Catholic Reporter, January 22, 1993 | Go to article overview

War against Nature Threatens Humankind


McCarthy, Colman, National Catholic Reporter


During the campaign when President Bush, somewhere between a whine and ridicule, attacked "the spotted owl crowd," Bill Clinton, more astute, chose to attack the issue. "I started reading all the legal documents," he recalled in late December, "and I discovered there was a lot more than the Endangered Species Act involved. ... There were six separate government agencies involved, and they had five different positions, under the same administration."

Compared with gays in the military, Haitians and immigration or other looming domestic policy walls that Clinton is hurtling into, the protection of endangered species promises to be a political, economic, moral and environmental brawl likely to go unsettled for much of the next Congress. The reauthorization of the act, passed in 1973 and amended in 1978, is scheduled for debate early this year.

The record of the past 20 years confirms that humans are not especially humane to the fish, wildlife and plants with whom they share the earth. Developers, poachers, hunters, gunners, miners, pavers and sprayers are among those causing declines in 38 percent of the estimated 600 species protected by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the main enforcers of the act. The numbers of only 10 percent of protected species were increasing; 31 percent remained stable.

The earth itself - the global habitat - is an ecological war zone in which human beings, when they aren't killing each other in wars and homicides, are obsessed with doing in nearly everything else. Less than 5 percent of the earth's land surface is preserved in national parks or other areas, legally off-limits to exploiters. If not stopped, the violence means that as many as 15 million plants and animals are likely to vanish in the next few decades as the competition for space increases. For human predators, it's always "one more land grab and well be happy."

It's asked by those who put human progress first and all else last: So what if a few spotted owls or snail darters don't make it? Without waiting for the day when the last owl nests in the last pine in the last forest next to the last pond where the last fish swims, an answer is available: Human progress isn't possible unless all other forms of life have their progress. …

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