Thursday, August 18, 2005

[geek] 30-second science blogging - staving off extinction... through consumerism?

Okay, this is going to be a little more in-depth than 30 seconds, but a good tag line is hard to pass up... So - two sci-tech/nature articles on MSNBC caught my eye yesterday evening: This auction block aims to save ancient trees and Elephants, lions to roam North America again? In a nutshell, both articles describe consumer-driven means of preserving genetic diversity - in the first instance, by auctioning off saplings of a pine tree once thought to be extinct (an ancestor of the 'monkey puzzle' tree, it was dinosaur food) but recently discovered in a small grove in Australia; in the second, a number of scientists propose creating a Great Plains Pliocestene National Park by reintroducing descendants of the great North American mammals to an unpopulated segment of the Great Plains: elephants, lions, cheetas, camels and primitive horses would be allowed to roam free, theoretically helping return the plains to their native state by reproducing something closer to the ecosystem that made the Great Plains what they 'should be' (talk about a moving target - 'should be' to whom?). In both cases, the proposals intend to promote biodiversity and offer new environments for threatened species by a.) generating funding, b.) increasing interest in stewardship, and c.) broadening the available habitat for the species, providing 'arks', if you will, where the pressures that they face in their native habitat won't be a factor. Now, market-driven conservation is nothing new: the Nature Conservancy has been doing it for years. It isn't without its criticisms, either - the Nature Conservancy, for instance, will sell land that it acquires to developers in order to fund additional preservation efforts. When they do this, the land the sell must meet fairly strict criteria as far as not being worth protecting, but still, some people find this discouraging. I don't know, myself - what I do know is that something must be done to preserve biodiversity, and while I'm not a fan of purely market-based solutions (Enron and California's energy crisis, anyone?), this doesn't seem harmful, and certainly seems worth a try. Of the two, the auction is certainly more realistic in scope. I'd love to hear what others think about this...

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