In my opinion, we've arrived at the time for conservation triage. Look at the parallels: environmental catastrophes are occurring with increasing frequency and, as I mentioned in my last post, there's a limited supply of money/time/human capital to go around. Furthermore, certain animals and ecosystems provide a larger proportion of ecological services than others. I believe conservation scientists need to make some hard choices about where to focus our efforts to minimize future damage and maximize function. What do we let go?
At any point in time, our understanding of how X natural process influences Y important thing is scarily incomplete, mostly because we eventually learn that X ends up influencing D and H, and Y is tied to Bob, ∰ and 42. Modeling natural systems' responses to stressors and changes is notoriously unreliable; accurate quantification of real-world dynamics usually takes many years. Time is a luxury we no longer have.
As people who contribute expertise, time, money, and energy, here's where I think we should focus our efforts to maximize remaining ecological services (I know these are broad. So sue me):
1. Divesting from fossil fuels
-a catch-all that would slow climate change, ocean temperature rise and acidification, hopefully create fewer climate change refugees and create jobs (eventually)
2. Preserving rainforests and mangroves
-They sequester a huge amount of CO2 and mangroves are important fishery nursing grounds
3. Saving honey bees
-Pollination is so incredibly important. Replicating the job of bees would be so expensive as to be nearly impossible and food, duh.
4. Creating locally-managed marine protected areas in underdeveloped fisheries
-There's huge pressure on artisinal fisheries. Building in MPAs now will mitigate overfishing issues as pressure on fisheries continues to rise
5. Really torn on this one. Either decrease demand for animal products used in traditional medicine or make all plastic biodegradable
I think every environmental issue is important. I want to save the entire world. I don't want to give up on a single thing. But if we have to pick and choose (and I believe we do), here's what I think needs to be cut:
1. Marine mammals and sea turtles
-Let the vaquitas go. Just let them go. And polar bears.
2. The non-GMO food movement
-We've been GMOing cereal crops for thousands of years. If it helps feed starving people, I'm all for it. By the way, stop eating beef.
3. Invasive plant/animal mitigation
-if you catch it really early, you can get rid of it for relatively little money. Beyond a certain point, it's too late. We need to limit spending on the "too late" ones like lionfish, zebra mussels and Asian carp.
4. Urban sprawl/overpopulation
-If you cross ants with rabbits, you get the terrain-changing, populating-amplifying capabilities of humans. We're never going away.
Sucks, doesn't it?
Now, who disagrees with me? What would you save or not save? Do we really need to triage at all, or is there enough to go around?