Friday, July 15, 2016

Habitat for Non-Humanity

Where do we start in preserving biodiversity? Over half our world's lands have lost enough species to jeopardize the future of life on earth. Life includes plants that we cultivate. It should not surprise us, then, that agriculture, rather than urbanization, is the human activity behind most of the species losses.

Even as a gardener, I would like to eliminate some members of certain species, such as the groundhog who doesn't respect my fences or the deer who don't appreciate the beauty of my roses. Unlike the animal lovers who volunteer at my neighborhood's Orphaned Wildlife Rescue Center, I chase deer away and endeavor to kill varmints that steal the fruits of my labor. Perhaps they need to rescue orphaned wildlife because of the likes of me, but first they are going to have to rescue their organization against allegations of animal cruelty, e.g. attempting to save creatures that should have been euthanized.

If we let our hearts win out over or heads, saving mammals and other larger animals may be how we attempt to preserve wildlife. Yet, is it not natural to regard like creatures as competitors in the food chain, if not outright enemies to our species? The mistake we have made in horticulture is not only did we carry out armed conflict against nuisance mammals, but lesser phyla are treated with almost no care at all, save plants we wish to grow. Arthropods and microorganisms, for example, are so innumerable that industrial farmers don't mind applying pesticides that kill beneficial species more than the relatively few harmful ones.

Just as important as our poisoning of the environment is our elimination of natural habitat that supports biodiversity. Habitat is largely formed by physical structure, so insects become significantly more diverse in a canopied forest rather than a cultivated field. Likewise, soil biota flourishes in the fractally constructed caverns of a biochar particle. Nature enables wilderness to grow into rich structural forms at all trophic levels, providing habitats for a most diverse set of plants, animals, and fungi. Revered biologist E.O Wilson offers the prescription for our global biodiversity crisis that we should set aside half the planet as wilderness. He even tells us where we stand the best chances of success.
Photo by Pete Warner

Wilderness necessarily excludes development. We have many forests in Calvert County, Maryland that, if appropriately joined, could constitute wilderness to contribute to the half-Earth goal. Fostering more growth and development won't help. "Keeping Calvert Country" isn't about nostalgia. It's about supporting mankind's survival.

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