Monday, December 12, 2016

Hmm …

What’s Happening to the Bees and Butterflies?

As a species, we repeatedly fail to acknowledge the equal and inherent right of all other species to exist, a right implicit in existence itself and in no way subordinate to our own. We ignore, as if instinctively, nature’s right to itself—its autonomy, if you like. No matter how we feel or act as individuals, what matters when it comes to saving nature is how we feel and act as a species. The news on that score is very grim.
Well, so far as we know, no other species makes any such acknowledgment, either. Ninety-nine percent of all species known to have existed are extinct. Obviously, most of that extinction was not caused by humans. We should, of course, do everything we can to prevent the spoliation of nature. But these grand lamentations over "poor Nature" remind me that we are living through another age of sentimentalism (the college snowflakes are latter-day Werthers). Interesting that the last such period took place during the Age of Reason, and that this one is taking place during the Age of Technology.

Post bumped, so people could see the comments.


  1. Hear hear - and how can any right be 'implicit in existence itself'? Rights are human constructs.

  2. Name-calling ('snowflakes') is something I'd expect from Trump, but not from you, Frank. Labelling people is generally counter-productive.

  3. Ah, but I also called them latter-day Werthers, lending them a certain literary cachet. I didn't make up the term, but it is now widely in uses, and I think that it applies. Of course, I am aware that such rudeness on my part is likely to make them cry.

  4. So let me try to understand: weeping is something shameful?

  5. Perhaps I should try to elaborate. Why consign people to categories, however widely accepted? Isn't it better to regard them as individuals with needs and dreams and, yes, flaws? I see no difference between dismissing a large number of our young people as 'snowflakes' and dismissing another group as 'dumb, ignorant factory workers.'

  6. Jeff Mauvais4:50 AM

    Nige is right, of course, about the silliness of claiming that rights are inherent in the existence of a being or a species. But we humans can and do confer rights or, more precisely, protection on non-human beings, species and even ecosystems. There are many reasons we do so: economic, emotional, social, aesthetic.

    Consider the economic imperatives that cause virtually every country with a seacoast to preserve saltmarsh ecosystems. Saltmarshes are muddy, stinky, visually uncompelling --- but they're also nurseries for billions of tiny creatures that form part of the trophic foundation for life in the open ocean. No saltmarshes, no ocean fisheries. A good chunk of humanity relies on marine productivity for survival.

    The biological world is part of our aesthetic life as well. Each species is a unique combination of characteristics that disappears forever with extinction. And the loss of one species can result in a cascade of subsequent losses. The giant sphinx moth may not fit anyone's definition of beautiful, but its extinction would cause the extinction of the legendary, exquisite ghost orchid of Florida and Cuba, which depends exclusively on the moth for pollination. The same holds true for ecosystem destruction: the shrinkage of oak-juniper scrublands in central Texas, under pressure from cattle grazing, is resulting in reduced breeding habitat for the golden-cheeked warbler, and potential extinction of the species. For many people, such losses are equivalent to the destruction of a painting by Titian or of a Rodin sculpture.

    Ecosystems themselves possess a kind of grand functional beauty. As an undergraduate, I studied a climax oak-hickory forest in a part of the Ozarks that had never been logged. Thousands of species --- bacteria, algae, fungi, mosses, ferns, perennials, annuals, shrubs, trees, worms, insects, birds, reptiles, amphibians, mammals --- had established an equilibrium that had persisted for at least four hundred years. The web of species interactions sustaining the equilibrium required hundreds of hours of 1970's mainframe computing power to analyze. There is genuine grandeur in that kind of complexity, a grandeur impossible without species diversity.

    In the end it comes down to how one regards man's relation to the rest of the biological world. Many people, like the writer to whom you linked, consider humans and 'Nature' as separable entities. But human beings are in nature, part of nature. Subordinating the natural world to the role of a backdrop, against which the human drama unfolds, results in psychological and spiritual impoverishment. After all, didn't Augustine write of two equally important sources of revelation: Scripture and the created world.

  7. My problem is not with respect for nature. My problem is with sentimentalism. As for consigning people to categories. If you consistently act in a foolish manner, you are likely a fool. One must be careful with categories and must not ground one's thought in them (in other words, avoid essentialism), but they do exist because they can help sort out reality. If you need a trigger warning before you can read Ovid's Metamorphoses, you don't belong in college, and your weepy feelings do not evoke my sympathy.

  8. You have a point about categories, but I don't think your use of the word 'snowflake' -- in your original context -- is anything more than a casual and perhaps convenient sneer, like 'rube'.The thing is, if you use a word with certain political connotations, you risk being misunderstood. There is the PC camp A (politically correct) and the PC camp B (patriotic correctness). Frankly, I would prefer not to use the language of either camp. If I want to bash someone, I'll do it individually, directly, and with what I hope is greater originality.

    As for your so-called weepies, have you actually talked to one?

  9. No, I have not met any weepies. They must run in other circles. There is no doubt that "snowflake" is meant as a sneer. Some people deserve to be sneered at. I am not impressed by these people. Why should I respect someone who needs a trigger warning for Ovid. I might manage to pity them, but I see no grounds for respect. They need to get over themselves.

  10. Perhaps you shouldn't be so sure that some or even a lot of your so-called snowflakes are even weepy. I suspect that there may be a good number of tough but manipulative people amongst them.

    I also suspect that I read more online comments than you. This sneering has got entirely out of hand, and does not in any way contribute to a productive exchange. Recently I came across a comment at the Washington Post in which someone called those who disliked the election results and some of Trump's subsequent choices and actions 'snowflakes who are shitting their pants'. This sort of commentary is far from rare. Since I too am disturbed and actively worried about a Trump presidency, I suppose this makes me one of the snowflakes.

    I may not need a trigger warning for Ovid, but I certainly need one whenever Trump speaks in public or tweets.

    In any case, I have a fondness for snowflakes: they are quite unique and beautiful. So I will start calling myself a 'snowflake' with pride and be damned!

  11. Oh, I like the real snowflakes too, and so I guess I owe them an apology (though I didn't make the term up). And I think you're almost certainly right that a good many of those so-called are manipulative (how tough I'm not so sure). But you don't need any trigger warnings re Trump. You're prepared to be appalled, I am sure. We all are.