Bend the Facts

Joshua Stuart Rose jsr6 at
Wed Jun 13 16:16:09 EDT 2001

I try to stay out of these things, and in particular to respect the 
minority attitudes of the conservatives on the list. They really do have 
some good points on occasion. Unfortunately, Paul Cherubini just went too 
far, and posted some severe half-truths that require completion in the 
name of honesty.

Paul Cherubini wrote:
> Leroy C. Koehn, Georgetown, Kentucky wrote:
> >
> > I have watched many of my favorite localities and habitats leveled by 
> > the bulldozer.
> But you didn't mention that probably most and maybe all these favorite 
> localties were created by bulldozers, plows and saws to begin with. 
> Kentucky was mostly all hardwood forest 200 years ago and plows and 
> saws probably created the clearings where you found good butterflying 
> in years' past.

I've only been through Kentucky once, but a similar statement about North 
Carolina would be an outrageous falsehood. NC traditionally had a great 
variety of wetland habitats, several different classifications of 
woodlands, and even a few natural grasslands. It's easy to wave 
dismissively at "all hardwood forest", but the fact is that they're not 
all alike! Mountains, foothills, swamps, floodplains, stream and river 
valleys; all have hardwood forests, each with different species of trees 
and understory plants, and each with different species of butterflies. 
The clearings make nice habitat for common backyard species which can be 
found anywhere in the eastern US, while displacing a much larger variety 
of scarcer, more sensitive species that have far smaller or more 
fragmented ranges.

> > I have seen the drift from insecticide spraying of crops kill
> > thousands of insects around the fields and into the forest, including 
> > butterflies.
> But you didn't mention that thousands is nothing in relation to the 
> millions of insects and butterflies that were not exposed and not 
> killed, so the overall impact is likely trivial. Butterflies continue 
> to be abundant (though diversity has been reduced) in the most 
> intensely farmed land on the planet: (the midwestern USA).

Funny how casually he tosses off that parenthetical phrase, "(though 
diversity has been reduced)". This is the ONLY IMPORTANT POINT! Does 
anyone really care how abundant butterflies are, if it's the same 10 or 
20 species everywhere in the US? Birds continue to be abundant in New 
York City, in fact they're probably far more abundant now than they ever 
were before this country was colonized; who cares if all those birds are 
Rock Doves, House Sparrows, Starlings, and the occasional Monk Parakeet, 
with Mute Swans, Mallards and feral Canada Geese around the ponds? Who 
cares that wood warblers, tanagers, thrushes, and native waterfowl and 
waders that once bred there can only be found as increasingly rare 
migratory passers-by?

Homogenization is perhaps the greatest threat to the environment today, 
incorporating habitat destruction, invasive/exotic species, and many 
other factors under its umbrella. The number of butterflies, birds, 
plants, or other organisms in an area is not a valid indicator of 
ecological health; biodiversity and endemism are far more important.

Joshua S. Rose
Duke University
Department of Biology (Zoology, R.I.P.)

jsr6 at


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