Smallpox revisited

Jerry Bricker lcjbrick at ANTELOPE.WCC.EDU
Tue Aug 6 11:42:58 CDT 1996

Dear one and all:

I posted the question regarding the destruction of the remaining smallpox
stocks and left for a week of backpacking in the Wind River Range near
Lander, WY.

It is amazing to see how a thread develops on the internet, especially if
you can follow it one sitting as I've done since my return from the
hinterlands.  My primary question surrounding smallpox had little to do
with the virus itself and seems to have been lost in the resulting
discussion.  I was interested in knowing what criteria are used to decide
which organisms are worthy of protection and preservation.  It seemed to
me at the time that smallpox highlights several key problems.  Organisms
that are destructive to our species are generally agreed upon to be
worthy of destruction.  So far, most of these have been viruses and few
would argue that we want to re-establish the biodiversity of smallpox or
polio to their previous levels.

My question is then how do we decide what "species" should be encouraged
to maintain large population sizes and which should be slated for
destruction.  My short residence in Wyoming indicates this is no small
issue.  A large segment of the population of this state is against wolf
reintroduction in the Yellowstone basin.  Their posistion is that species
was properly exterminated from the wild in North America and shouldn't be
allowed to return.  Does their position on wolves really differ all that
much from those stated in the smallpox thread?

I am a botanist.  I have always been a bit irritated that when
preservation of species diversity and habitat is presented to the public
it is done using a fuzzy animal.  The public clearly identifies with wolf
pups, cheetahs, and lions.  I just want to know what policies are in
place to ensure that all organisms are given proper and careful
consideration in their maintenance and preservation?  Once we cross the
line of exterminating one species when do we stop?


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