Extinction vs accuracy

Ron Gatrelle gatrelle at tils-ttr.org
Sun Jan 14 22:47:06 EST 2001

Someone (I have already deleted the massage) used the word _weight_ in
conjunction with what term is best for locally missing taxa.  The truth is
that activists (on any front) are very adept at yelling fire in the
theater. Activists are looking for action. Thus, they choose words with the
proper weight to stir sentiment and motivate events in their direction.
Any way one cuts it, extinct means gone to never return again. Atala was
never extinct in Florida. Celastrina ebenina was a seldom seen form until
it was realized that it was a species and what its habitat is. Now it's
known as a somewhat widespread species. N. mitchellii pops are now known to
occur in Mississippi and Alabama and will quite possibly turn out to have
numerous colonies is the seldom visited, snake infested, southern swamps.
Accuracy is what needs to be communicated. If something is extinct then use
that term. If locally absent then just say that. If a status is unknown but
probably whatever then say that. It is fine to warn of fire in the theater
if there is one. But if not, when there really is one nobody will pay much
heed. We who are on the side of the environment have used words like
extinct, crisis, immanent, so often that Joe Public (whose support we must
have) is beginning to just see us as using chronic over, or mis, statement.
If actives what to continue to use terms with  more _weight_ then be
advised that is no where to go in ones terminology but down. Or, will we
become like the magician of Princess Bride and say, well, they were only
mostly dead, now they are fully dead - extinct. They were only mostly on
the verge now they are really or fully or completely on the verge.
The Red Wolf was once extirpated from South Carolina. Now it has been
reintroduced -  because that taxon has never been extinct.
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