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our choice (revised)

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Boyang Su


Professor: Jody Cohen

December 19, 2014

Our Choice

Elizabeth Kolbert’s The Six Extinction seems to be talking about different extinctions without much inner relationship. But in my opinion, the order of the extinction stories unveiled the whole process of how humans sensed their damage to the environment, finally bringing up a question at the end of the book: could human avoid extinction or are we doomed to become extinct? Analyzing the deeper relationship between human and extinction, is the relationship exclusive? Or is it interdependent? I tried to find our choice when faced with the question.

Starting with the extinction of the golden frogs in Panama, Kolbert wrote the extinction of something rather near to us, no matter in time or place. The numbers of different kinds of frogs in Panama have been declining rapidly these years. Many species became extinct even without anyone noticing. Kolbert said the main reason for the extinctions is a kind of fungus from North America, which is brought to Panama because of humans travelling, indicating the ubiquity of extinctions nowadays. It seems to be the fungus that led to the extinction, but the real truth lying behind the insignificant fungus is the globalization of human beings.

In the end of the book, Kolbert talked about a visit to the Institute for Conservation Research, where all the extinct animals are preserved in tank with liquid nitrogen. Every cell of the animal is carefully preserved for the last chance of resurgence. The fast-developing technology seems to be omnipotent. However, is it what we really want? A used to be colorful world now all locked in the pool of nitrogen. Is technology powerful enough to save the extinct species? At last, Kolbert left the reader with a question. Can human beings escape extinction with their powerful technology that could even control nature? Or it is our fate to become extinct eventually?

The whole book focuses on the relationship between human and extinction. Obviously, humans are destroying the nature, accelerating extinction. However, the extent to which human is influencing the nature is beyond our imagination. Not only are the release of pollution, overcut of forests leading to damage, but also human’s globalization, a single footprint can be related to extinction of another specimen. As long as human exist, everything we do could cause damage to the environment.

Do humans exist equally as the other living beings in nature? Our existence that keeps damaging nature excludes us from part of nature. Maybe humans were evolved to be part of nature, but human civilization made us different from others. Reflecting on the inner relationship between human and nature, I first thought they are exclusive since impairment to nature seems to be inevitable when it comes to human, technology development. Kolbert said that human development accelerated or directly caused the extinction of many species. Ozeki unveiled the confrontation between Genetic-Modified crops’ benefits for the farmer and the damage to the natural world. The reality is we can’t promote environment and economics at the same time because they are contradictory. However, Van Jones suggested that we could solve the problem of both poverty and environment, by offering green jobs to the unemployed people. This sounds like a brilliant idea that can save the environment and develop economy simultaneously. His plan has never been practiced, so it’s hard to say whether it will work or not. In my opinion, no matter how hard we try to find a balancing point between environment and development, Since they are exclusive, inescapably, human need to bear some kind of loss in order to save the environment, just like human develops at the price of destroying environment.

Van Jones made successful speeches in persuading and encouraging people to take action of protecting the environment. There are a lot of questions behind these seemed-to-be successful speeches. How long could the speech receivers’ enthusiasm for environment protecting last? It is far more complex to really persuade people into this, because it’s not just a simple action, but more like a belief, the belief that truly relates us with the environment, enabling us to identify, empathize with the nature and willing to make sacrifice for it. Like Lloyd in All Over Creation, he didn’t genuinely learn to protect the diversity and give back to nature before he comprehended the interdependence, equal position between nature and human.

However, in the process of trying to relate to nature, it’s still hard for human to give up superiority. In his whole life, Lloyd was striving for nature diversity and saying how plants and nature resembles human. But as he was dying, Lloyd suddenly said he don’t want to be a plant, laying out the idea that human might not be identical to nature because of humans’ superior intelligence and adaptability. Moreover, our actions of protection also arouse a contradiction. Definitely, we are trying to avoid extinction by protecting the earth. But, protection can also be viewed as human’s desire to control the environment and protection also involves the use of technology, which could be interpreted as another way of human trying to control nature. It seems impossible for human to give up control. While we are trying to empathize with nature, we are still stuck in our superiority as human beings.

Can human ever give up their desire to control and develop? Is our relationship with nature interdependent or exclusive? The fact is that our relationship with nature is decided by our own actions, our choice. If we still act innocently just thinking of our own benefits, the situation will be worsened, and we will force ourselves to extinction. But if we could think ecologically, considering the impact our actions in the whole ecology, and act more conscientiously, we could sustain the harmonic, interdependent situation between human and nature.


Work cited,

Ozeki, Ruth L. All over Creation. New York: Penguin, 2003. Print.