Monarch extinction

Woody Woods woody.woods at
Sun Nov 12 13:06:05 EST 2000

Ron, I certainly agree that we should not try to preserve an evolutionary
halt, and will go one better: conservation at its best amounts to preserving
the potential for continued evolution-- meaning genetic variability, which in
turn usually means preserving the habitat heterogeneity that fosters

Few would disagree that continental drift, meteor strikes, ice ages and other
large-scale phenomena have had more far-reaching effects than humans on the
course of evolution. I think there are two important differences where humans
are involved, though. First, the time scale-- humans have changed the planet's
surface faster than previous major effectors, challenging the resilience of
evolutionary responses as they may not have been challenged before. Second,
this is the first mass extinction being driven by a single species, not by
geophysical causes. We are entering new territory with only a sketchy rudiment
of a map.

Thoreau quotes Confucius as saying "To know that we know what we know, and
that we do not know what we do not know, that is true knowledge." The trouble
is that waiting for true knowledge is a little like waiting for Godot. What if
someone were to walk onstage during Beckett's play and say "I'm Godot"? The
others would probably want to see some positive identification!

Sometimes taking measures to prevent or at least reduce a disaster means
learning later that we did more than we had to, but as spacecraft and bridge
designers can tell you, that's better than doing too little. 


Ron Gatrelle wrote:
> The following are fair questions...
  .... Where exactly is the balanced and
> reasonable position on todays environmental issues?
>  ------------------------------------------------------------
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William A. Woods Jr.
Department of Biology
University of Massachusetts Boston
100 Morrissey Blvd                      Lab: 617-287-6642
Boston, MA 02125                        Fax: 617-287-6650


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