Big Picture News, Informed Analysis

Canadian journalist Donna Laframboise. Former National Post & Toronto Star columnist, past vice president of the Canadian Civil Liberties Association.

Extinction is Inevitable

SPOTLIGHT: A veteran biologist says we need to “sing a new song.” Many of the things we believe about the natural world aren’t true.

BIG PICTURE: In his book, 25 Myths That Are Destroying the Environment, former ecology professor, prize-winning textbook author, and lifetime environmentalist Daniel Botkin urges us to reexamine questions such as species extinction.


Contrary to this widespread perception, Botkin reminds us that everything perishes sooner or later. Comparing life on planet Earth to a professional baseball team, he observes that the team persists across many decades, but individuals don’t:

Players come and go; they have their moment and then a time of passage. So it is with species…the ultimate fate of each life-form, each species, is extinction.

Botkin acknowledges that some species are vulnerable, and that humanity has played a role in their demise. On the other hand, much of what happens in the natural world isn’t up to us. Sustained, deliberate attempts on our part to eradicate certain species often fail:

there is a certain arrogance underlying the fashionable belief that we are powerful enough to affect all life on Earth. If we are this influential, why have we been so unsuccessful at causing the extinction (or even having reasonable control over) malaria-carrying mosquitoes…Why are we unable to cause the local extinction in the Everglades National Park of the introduced Burmese python? (My scientific friends who work near and in this park tell me its managers have basically given up all hope of eliminating this invasive species, or even of stopping the way it is largely altering the food chains within the park.)

Why can’t we eliminate from this same park the Australian tree Melaleuca…Why haven’t we been able to cause the North American extinction of zebra mussels?

TOP TAKEAWAY: Extinction is inevitable – and the role played by humans is smaller than most of us imagine.


25 Myths That Are Destroying the Environment: What Many Environmentalists Believe and Why They Are Wrong
Daniel Botkin


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This entry was posted on June 15, 2018 by in quotations and tagged .
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