Library on fire (triage?)

Ken Kinman kinman at HOTMAIL.COM
Wed Aug 21 20:13:07 CDT 2002

     I think we should do whatever we can on as many different fronts as
possible.  This includes "salvage sampling" in front of bulldozers, which is
not nearly as depressing as looking back and regretting not having done more
of it when we had the chance.  What really worries me is that invertebrates
and plants are often getting the short end of the stick when it comes to
conservation (unless they are really attractive to human eyes, like orchids
or butterflies).
     But even within a specific group of vertebrates (mammals), conservation
efforts are very unbalanced.  I think a species like the bumblebee bat (only
known member of Family Craseonycteridae) is far more important in terms of
overall phylogenetic biodiversity than a subspecies of rodent that happens
to be threatened by human development in the United States.  But the U.S.
has a lot more money and media than Thailand, so a species or subspecies of
vertebrate in North America is likely to get more resources and attention
than the possible extinction of the entire Family Craseonycteridae.
     I don't want to even think about how much time and millions of dollars
have been spent on a single individual whale in a much publicized "feel
good" campaign (as though that somehow let's us off the hook).   But the
majority of "Americans" seem to have a rather warped perspective of the
world as a whole, and this is naturally reflected in our biased and
unbalanced allocation of resources for all kinds of things (including
    It would certainly be nice to increase the overall "size of the pie" of
resources for biodiversity documentation and preservation.  But whatever the
size of that pie, it would be sad to lose a whole Family of Chiroptera (or
whole Families and Genera of invertebrate taxa, for that matter) while we
are squabbling over subspecies (or even smaller populations) in the United
States.  Maybe more taxonomic "triage" and perspective is in order.
Shouldn't an endangered genus or family of organisms (like Craseonycteridae)
get more attention than endangered species within speciose genera and
              ----- Ken

>From: Robert Mesibov <mesibov at SOUTHCOM.COM.AU>
>Reply-To: Robert Mesibov <mesibov at SOUTHCOM.COM.AU>
>Subject: Library on fire
>Date: Wed, 21 Aug 2002 15:50:10 +1000
>It took me a while to work through Richard Pyle's metaphor but it's a nice
>one. We can extend it a wee bit further. We know exactly which bits of the
>Library are burning and which are going to burn in the near future. The
>half of the volunteer workforce that's grabbing things from shelves and
>heading for the vault has, theoretically, a very well-defined work program
>based on imminence of loss. Unfortunately, that isn't how the grabbing is
>organised in the real world (see the thread beginning with
> The
>workforce is paid and it's being paid by people who have their own ideas
>about which part of the Library, burning or not, should be sampled next.
>I led a discussion on salvage sampling of about-to-be-destroyed natural
>areas at a recent conference. One participant said he found the whole idea
>too depressing. It was easier to get motivated to sample in a reserve than
>to sample in front of a bulldozer. The discussion ended without 'Actions to
>be Taken.'
>Dr Robert Mesibov
>Honorary Research Associate
>Queen Victoria Museum and Art Gallery
>Home contact: PO Box 101, Penguin, Tasmania, Australia 7316
>(03) 64371195; 61 03 64371195

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