what are we going to do

Peter Rauch anamaria at GRINNELL.BERKELEY.EDU
Wed Oct 23 13:50:51 CDT 1996

> Date:         Wed, 23 Oct 1996 14:06:39 CDT
> From: Anita Cholewa <anita at MOZART.CBS.UMN.EDU>
> It's a little disconcerting to hear that the Nature
> Conservancy will only provide funding (for research on
> an organism/community) after it has become rare.

I perhaps generously interpreted what John said as TNC's mission
allows it to legitimately fund that _one_ among many activities
that are funded. Would you have TNC not use the notion of
rarity (not in the simple sense of uncommon, but because of
being threatened with extirpation) as one of the high priority
yardstick for how to allocate scarce resources?

> It's
> also disconcerting to hear that the Nature Conservancy
> may offer money for describing new species.  Both of
> these ideas suggest a scenario to me that will lead to
> increased degradation of communities ("why should we
> care about this oak forest, it has no rare organisms")

Or, TNC might actually be saying "what is it about this oak
forest that tells us it is not in imminent peril of extirpation
as a "community type"? "Rare species", with rarity properly
interpreted, might help understand whether an oak forest is
in imminent danger of collapse. On the other hand, so might
a nearby parked bulldozer.

> and to increased adnauseum splitting of species where
> it may not be taxonomically warranted ("if I say these
> examples of variation within a species are really species
> then I can fund this closely related project").

Would it be ok if one were paid handsomely to describe the
variability of a species and to suggest that the variability is
such that some of it will likely be lost if this site (and
this form of a species along with it) is destroyed?

"Ad nauseum splitting" sometimes results in new specific names;
sometimes, not often enough, it results in insights into infraspecific
variation (which should provide us the opportunity to argue that we
want to preserve all variation, not just some subset of "typical"

> This is not what I thought the Nature Conservancy was about

I see no conflict between a mission "... to preserve plants, animals
and natural communities that represent the diversity of life on Earth
by protecting the lands and waters the need to survive" and getting
paid well to elucidate that diversity. Nor do I see a problem with
saving what is yelling for help and in need of a life preserver before
giving attention to something that is not yelling for help and not in
need of a life preserver. Seems pretty simple to me?

I like saving things that are not in any danger of annihilation
too. So, for me it isn't an either/or choice morally; it's just a
practical problem of limited resource allocation. Let's do both
--and expect to get paid well for it.

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