Thursday, August 13, 2009

"Reviving the Lost Art of Naming the World"

Dana recently sent me this most interesting article:

http://www.nytimes.com/2009/08/11/science/11naming.html?pagewanted=1&_r=1

It is well worth reading.

4 comments:

Keith said...

Very good article! Two of my favorite lines:
1. "We are so disconnected from the living world that we can live in the midst of a mass extinction, of the rapid invasion everywhere of new and noxious species, entirely unaware that anything is happening." and,
2. "...meditate, luxuriate in its beetle-ness, its daffodility."

Scott said...

I agree that this was a very good article, and #1 was one of my favorite lines as well; but I also see a healthy dose of irony in statement #1. How long before we not only realize but act on the fact that we, humans, are by far the most destructive invasive species on the planet, and the vector for the spread of all other invasive species that we in turn try to control? We continue to reproduce at an out-of-control and unsustainable rate, and to destroy everything in our path, without any natural predator to "spray us with pesticide." We probably aren't all that different from other invasive species, in the sense that our most basic instincts are to eat and reproduce. However, of all of the invasive species, only humans have the ability to understand what the results of our impacts will be, but this doesn't stop even the most ecologically well-intentioned. Does Purple Loosestrife understand that it will be displacing other organisms as it reproduces and spreads? Does the Zebra Mussel have the capability to understand its long-term impacts on our waterways? But can't anyone else see the devastation we are wreaking on natural areas and that we are the main cause of this mass extinction? Yet we seem "entirely unaware that anything is happening" as a result of our impacts. What makes it okay for us to act like this at the same time that we try to wipe out Cane Toads in areas where they weren't naturally found? Are we really doing what is best for Earth or is eradication of "invasive" species just another way of asserting our dominance on the planet as we try to make things the way we think they used to be?

I apologize for the rant, but when will we wake up?

Justin Thomas said...

Keith, thanks for the recap. I enjoyed smiling at these statements once again. You are truly a collector of quotes.

Indeed, Scott, indeed. Though I haven't given up all hope for us humans. Through scientific endevours we are gradually shedding our superstitious heritage and learning that we live in a world of physical reality. Once the masses accept this truth and abandon the faith-based falsehoods that demoralize us on a existential plain, we can get down to the bare facts and start some real change. The question is whether we can beat the fuse of pollution and extinction that threatens to disrupt this brief window of geologic stability that has afforded mankind the ability to rise to the intellectial level we have attained. Otherwise, we are effectively no more destructive than a meteor in terms of raw impact and far less significant outside our own fascination with ourselves.

Keith said...

In his inimitable style, George Carlin once said, "The planet'll shake us off like a bad case of fleas." Well said - and noted!