Take Good Care

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Today, like every day, is mostly a bad day for endangered species as scores of them on average will go extinct. Carol Arnold has this Perspective.

When I hear about yet another endangered species becoming extinct, I look to the biologist E.O. Wilson for hope. An octogenarian and Pulitzer Prize-winning writer, his recent book Half Earth is the name he also gave the foundation he started with the goal of saving the world’s plants and animals.

Although “endangered” status is supposed to lead to recovery and sometimes does, many scientists report that about 50 to 200 species become extinct every day

Some visionaries hope to clone extinct animals, like passenger pigeons. I don’t hold out much hope for these efforts, just like I don’t hold out much hope for humans colonizing Mars when the earth is destroyed. I believe we are stuck with the animals we have, on the Earth that we have. “Take good care,” my Mom would say.

Wilson began his career studying ants, the tiny insects most of us consider pests. But without ants, entire forests would collapse. They are both soil aerators and carbon collectors. We depend on ants, just as we depend on everything else in the biosphere.


The recent death of the Northern White Rhino called Sudan did much to bring the extinction crises into focus. This last male of his species, his brethren were destroyed mostly by poachers looking for a quick buck for rhino horns. But the main cause of extinction is lack of habitat.

Humans are one species and we impact every square inch of land and water. Even so, Wilson remains an optimist. His proposal is to use half the earth in a collage of preserves and corridors to salvage the other 9 million species, something he considers completely doable. He doesn’t hold much truck with those who destroy ecosystems. “Destroying rainforests for economic gain,” he once said, “is like burning a Renaissance painting to cook a meal.”

I would add that if we continue the path we’re on, we will be left with only the dregs of such a meal. The feast will be gone forever.

With a Perspective, I’m Carol Arnold.

Carol Arnold is a retired environmental planner living in San Francisco.