Saturday, July 21, 2007

E. O. Wilson - You should know him

I finally got around to watching this episode I'd Tivo'd of Bill Moyer's Journal. E. O. Wilson is a "sociobiologist" of great distinction who grew up in Mobile, Alabama and Washington, D.C., and is currently a professor at Harvard. He is, perhaps, the model naturalist of our times, and has recently authored a book, The Creation: An Appeal to Save Life on Earth, in which he addresses a virtual Southern Baptist preacher about the responsibility to care for life on earth.

He emphasizes the potential cost of our allowing the extinction of a quarter to a half of all living species, and does so in a gentle but sincerely concerned manner. As one of our most informed biologists, he can foresee a time when the earth is much as it was after the great meteorite impact that many scientists believe wiped out the dinosaurs and many of their contemporary critters.

He also points out an element that I have not seen reflected in the projections of economists - the dollar value cost of services provided by nature to humanity.

We get from nature scot-free, so long as we don't screw it up and destroy it-- approximately the same amount of services as far as you can measure them in dollars as we ourselves produce each year. it was about $30 trillion a year. T. Trillion. And these creatures, they have built in them, in their genes and then in their physiology an endless array of defenses, many of which we could use and we have used, like producing antibiotics we never heard of using chemicals that we never even dreamed existed. And-- so we have already benefited immensely from wild species in that way. But, you know, let me get to the bottom line as far as I'm concerned. And that is-- isn't it morally wrong to destroy the rest of life, you know, in any way you look at it-- for what it's going to do to human spirit and aesthetics?
Here's Dr. Wilson speaking last March at TED, appealing for support in building his online Encyclopedia of Life, "an ecosystem of websites that makes all key information about life on Earth accessible to anyone, anywhere in the world."

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