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People, including me, kill mosquitos because they are annoying

yhama's picture


November 13th, 2015


People, including me, kill mosquitos because they are annoying. People, including me, have dogs because they are cute. Why is it the problem that some species become extinct? What is the real meaning of “the problem of sharing our earth with other creatures,”? (Kolbert, p.261)

I felt something odd while reading both “The Sixth Extinction” and “The Collapse of Western Civilization” and the following discussion in the class. I had no idea what to write in the essay because I haven’t realized the cause of the discomfort. Now, I would like to think about two points of view comparing the two books.

First, in The Sixth Extinction, Kolbert states the importance of protecting the species in the earth. “Having been alerted to the ways in which we’re imperiling other species, can’t we take action to protect them? Isn’t the whole point of trying to peer into the future so that, seeing dangers ahead, we can change course to avoid them?” (Kolbert p,261) However, why do people have to protect them? Why is it important to save the frogs which most of us don’t see through our lives? As people can kill mosquitos but pretty dogs, there is a reason which depends on humans’ subjectivity. People should protect other species in order to keep the environment which “they are comfortable to live in”. The new kind of animals and the plants can live in the earth even after people become extinct. It is arrogant to say that protect the wild life by humans’ effort. What we are doing is for ourselves. In terms of this view, “The Collapse of Western Civilization” has a point. “As food shortage and disease outbreaks spread and sea level rose, these governments found themselves without the infrastructure and organization ability to quarantine and relocate people.” (Oreskes and Conway, p51) This book appeals to us making use of the power of fear. That can drive us to make an action for ourselves and for the environment.

Second, it is about the hope. Kolbert states that “Wouldn’t it better, practically and ethically, to focus on what can be done and is being done to save species, rather than to speculate gloomily about a future in which the biosphere is reduced to little plastic vials? The director of a conservation group in Alaska once put it to me this way: ‘people have to have hope. I have to have hope. It’s what keeps us going’.”(Kolbert, p.262)

But how can we change the situation? As for both the endangered animals and the climate change, what we are doing now is temporary. Also, as in “The Collapse of Western Civilization”, it is written that “economic power was increasingly concentrated in a tiny elite, who came to be known as the ‘1 percent’ and then in a political elite propelled to power as the climate crisis forced dramatic interventions to relocate citizens displaced by sea level rise and desertification, to contain contagion, and to prevent mass famine.” (Oreskes and Conway, P.49). The situation is controlled by the government in many ways. I don’t know how to make a change.


jccohen's picture


It seems to me that what you’re saying here, especially toward the end of the essay, is that Oreskes and Conway’s book shows us a powerful truth that is greater and harsher than what Kolbert presents us with.  And then you say that you “don’t know how to make a change.”  Perhaps some of the issue here has to do with who “we” are – in the worldviews of Kolbert and O & C, and also in your worldview.  While Kolbert seems to be talking about what all of us can do through our daily actions and priorities, O & C focus on those with political and economic power.  And yet they too seem to imply that all of us are responsible, that we do have some capacity to impact politics and economics; although they don’t tell us how, I wonder what would happen if we read Take Back the Market as a companion piece to O & C…  Could this approach help you consider “how to make a change”?

You suggest earlier in the paper, “It is arrogant to say that protect the wild life by humans’ effort. What we are doing is for ourselves.”  What are you saying about this, that is, is it legitimate, even important that we do what we can for ourselves/humans, in this regard?