in Science: What if we let tigers go extinct?
I’ve been a bit active this morning and it’s because I’ve got a bit of time before I need to get to class and do not have any pressing tasks to take care of. In the activity I stumbled upon a blog post about the plight of tigers in Asia. Personally I believe we should protect all animals but a thought hit me – what if we didn’t? I know I’m playing devil’s advocate here. What if we didn’t protect animals that are dying out? Obviously they aren’t fit to survive if they’re going extinct.
I thought about it after the novelty of taking that stance wore off and realized that the difference lies in the magnitude of effect that humans can have. Here’s an analogy:
Cells in our body divide, grow, and die every second. We never worry about that. This would be like the world without human interference that follows the predator-prey cycle. However, when our cells grow uncontrollably – that is, they become cancerous – we do whatever we can (to the point of irradiating ourselves) to get rid of that uncontrolled growth. Humans are the cancer to the world. Now I realize there have been cataclysmic events in the past that have lead to rapid evolution but consider the difference: those large-scale events are like a wound on our body that heals. Sure, it may be scarred or not heal perfectly but it heals and the rest of the cells keep dividing and dying as usual. The cancer, however, sucks the life out of the whole body just as we are sucking the life out of this planet.
There’s been a study that claims killing off mosquitoes would not have a bad effect. While the claim could be exaggerated by the media outlet there is a quote in there that strikes me as ominous.
“The ecological effect of eliminating harmful mosquitoes is that you have more people. That’s the consequence,” says Strickman.
I don’t know if this Strickman character is aware or not but we already have millions of people suffering from hunger, poverty, and subpar living conditions in the world. Is Strickman really saying that an increase in population under those circumstances is a good thing? Maybe this comes off as cruel but consider where mosquitoes do most of their killing: in Africa where they can’t afford treatment for malaria. If you have a drastic increase in population in those areas that can’t afford the treatment, can those areas afford the cost of supporting those people?
To tie it back to the cancer metaphor, the mosquitoes are acting as a treatment against the human-cancer. If we get rid of that our growth will continue with even more reckless abandon and stress the Earth much more.
Perhap’s it’s time for people like Strickman to notice the bigger picture and see how having more people is not necessarily a good thing. I sincerely lament the loss of people to easily treatable diseases but at the same time would I want to sacrifice the quality of life of millions of people? It’s a really tough ethical question that I think we need to seriously think about but if scientists keep ignoring the big picture like that we’ll suddenly have more and more people suffering without even knowing why we let that happen. I think that’s the most unethical thing we can do.
If all this came from just mosquitoes being exterminated, imagine what could happen if tigers (who have just as much influence on the ecosystem if not more influence than mosquitoes) go extinct.
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