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by Mountaineerbr

#16 - Biology for Cynics 0 - Saving the Wrong Species

Com a série Biologia para Cínicos, espero pode apresentar uma visão mais seca e mais dura da realidade da disciplina de ciências, porém mais próxima da relidade do que muitos livros e instituições ensinam por aí.

There are many illusions about biology. I understand that is partly so because commoners are too passionate about Nature. In contrast, professional biologists ought to be cold and rational about Nature, but not all of them are, either.

Today I saw an ad on TV about protecting wildlife, such as birds and other animals of the forest. The ad said Nature does not need us but we (humans) need Nature.

Well, I may disagree.

We are part of Nature, we are the effect of climate and other conditions on Earth which allowed human beings to develop. There is no reason at all to think animals (rational or not) in the universe are alike earthbound ones.

Cities and buildings are also natural. I dislike the word natural because it does not make much sense nor does it make things clearer in a wider analysis. That word is just an umbrella wording (and misused nowadays) but obviously I understand commoners will use that in opposition to man-made stuff.

Why do commoners want to keep all species and avoid any and all species going extinct? That is nonsensical! New species are emerging all the time (why not?) as well as many others are going extinct all the time.

Who can say an older species is better than a new species? And what is better in this case, anyways? Newer species may emerge because environmental conditions changed. Animals usually have a very specific niche or a house in the environment. If their house does not provide conditions, new species will evolve to take that place! There is no vacuum in nature.

Not a few times I have seen reports of sightings of animals long thought to have gone extinct! That kind of news is actually much common if you start noticing them..

New species may eventually be more fit than older ones. Thus, the value for the environment of new versus extinct species may not change at different times (even if environment changes, too). Also, species of a niche may change by random drift, meaning older and newer species are equivalent and that is just by random chance one goes extinct while the other occupies its place. Is that better means more fit? If so, the better for the environment means the more fit species. On the other hand, if better means more useful, humans may be the best, then.

Humans shall prove very useful for maintaining our natural world. When we move from Earth, someday, we will take animals, bacteria and viruses with us to new worlds. In the meantime, humans will strive to keep species which are useful for them, such as cattle, and will keep the ecosystem required by them and by ourselves.

Human relation with the environment will improve over time as humans get more comfortable and have got time to think about other beings. Do not ignore humans fought natural forces all along to avoid being crushed by them. Also, at our modern world, most world population is very very poor and may not even have water or food to keep their health.

Check the environmental curve of Kuznets, which is, unfortunately, badly interpreted by modern biologists because they do not seem to understand that what is pollution for one species is food for others, a cycle.

Plants will actually use sulfur and nitrogen from car and factory exhaust! Phosphorus from smoke can also be used by trees. See for example (a) or (local copy), (b), (c), (d) and (e). That is too bold a claim trees clean the air, as some papers deem, but my point is just trees do use some sulfur, nitrogen and other elements from air pollution for their own benefit. Also note some researches are performed only under laboratory conditions which exacerbate normal pollution levels by a lot, which conclusions may be off from what happens in nature. Carbon is food for photosynthetic organisms as they embody carbon from the atmosphere into their body to grow. That is basic plant physiology. That is actually quite fascinating if you can reckon life is not under our control and life is too pungent and cannot be detained on Earth.

Carbon is funny. More specifically, its bonds with other chemical elements give it extreme flexibility at earthly conditions. I hope to write a little article about how the carbon atom originated life someday but I am still appreciating just how funny an element that is.. Carbon is like Lego® pieces and if you can roll them enough with other elements, they will interact and nucleate into ever more complex pieces and eventually life forms.

If people love life and all species, then they must love the bacteria and viruses, too. Why not? I suspect commoners love some furry animals and their love gets weaker the more genetically apart species are from humans. I cannot blame them!

That is plain there are thousands of other planets supporting life throughout Milk Way. There is no reason to think life on Earth is better or worse than any other life in the universe. In my head, generically, they all have got about the same value. So why humans are so worried about protecting all species on Earth but ourselves? It does not matter at all in the greater scheme of things..

Microorganisms are much more important than animals. The energy flux of the living start with photosynthetic and chemosynthetic life. The frog, the bird, the lion.. They are not more important than photosynthetic life so why do commoners want to protect organisms that matter the least to Earth environment? The frog, the bird, the lion and humans may get extinct and it will not matter much or for long to our ecosystems. New species will promptly take their place as long as the basal energy availability is intact. Over time, even complex body schemes may evolve from single cell organisms but more complex or rational life may not necessarily develop.