[Taxacom] Pro-natalism vs. biodiversity

Doug Yanega dyanega at ucr.edu
Thu Jan 28 12:42:50 CST 2010

Richard Jensen wrote:

>David's point about educating women is right on target. But it's only
>part of the solution.
>As I see it, attempts to decrease each individual's impact are far
>outpaced by the increase in the number of individuals. Thus, population
>growth continues and resource overuse/abuse is a direct or indirect

I've been following this spin-off thread ever since MIke Ivie's 
message, and I think Rich Pyle's burning library analogy (which he's 
been using for many years, and it still has its merits) can be 
refined to reflect this particular dilemma:

There are people in the library who are tearing pages out of books. A 
few of them are taking pages out of history books or biology books 
and selling them as wall decorations in wealthy homes; when 
confronted, they either say their tax dollars support the library (so 
they're just claiming their fair share), or that there is an economic 
benefit because the books are worth more sold piecemeal as art, than 
they are as intact books on a shelf, and they promise to give a share 
of the profits back to the library. This denies the principle that 
the library is (1) a communal - and ostensibly perpetual - resource 
and (2) that selling off, destroying or damaging the books is 
CONTRARY to the intent of the library. The underlying problem is that 
these folks are selfish and/or short-sighted.

There's also a group of people who are not only tearing out pages, 
but pulling down entire biology books, and burning them. They're 
burning them to heat their homes and cook their food; when 
confronted, they say they have a right to feed their families and 
keep from freezing. The underlying problem is that they're poor and 
hungry, and until THAT problem is solved, they won't stop burning 
books. To the extent that their state of poverty and hunger is 
related to overpopulation, then overpopulation certainly contributes 
to the problem.

You either need to convince the former group that there are better 
ways for them to make their profits than by exploiting communal 
resources, or put rules in place that prevent such abuses if they are 
unwilling to restrain themselves. The second group needs to be dealt 
with through *societal* actions; you can neither reason with poverty, 
nor legislate against it. We, as scientists, accordingly have a lot 
more potential influence on the former group than the latter. The 
problem is, it isn't MUCH influence. We really could use more visible 


Doug Yanega        Dept. of Entomology         Entomology Research Museum
Univ. of California, Riverside, CA 92521-0314        skype: dyanega
phone: (951) 827-4315 (standard disclaimer: opinions are mine, not UCR's)
   "There are some enterprises in which a careful disorderliness
         is the true method" - Herman Melville, Moby Dick, Chap. 82

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