[extropy-chat] Re: Animals

Christian Weisgerber naddy at mips.inka.de
Fri Feb 13 03:13:21 UTC 2004

David Lubkin <extropy-chat at lists.extropy.org> wrote:

> Thinking about animals adapting in the wake of humans got me wondering 
> about animals in the wake of transhumans.

I'll go off on a (necessarily) posthuman tangent here.

Currently, a major concern is conservation.  Of individual species,
their habitats, entire ecologies.

But if you consider the long term--and I mean the really long term,
say, millions of years rather than millennia--then conservation
turns into a profoundly artificial action requiring major interference.
Habitats change and disappear, species adapt and thus change, or
die off.  Even large-scale extinction events become regular
occurrences.  For the history of life on Earth it has always been
like this.  Preserving the status quo of the year 2000 C.E. until
eternity would be entirely unnatural (for those who care about a
distinction natural/artificial) and more importantly, it would also
disallow future developments of unknown potential.

Think of the arrival of grasses during the Miocene.  If you zoom
in on any particular point in time, it probably looked all very
static.  As you zoom out, the spread of grasses becomes an enormous
ecological catastrophy.  Innumerable habitats were destroyed and
countless species driven to extinction.  The odd-toed ungulates,
which were the dominant terrestrial herbivores at the time, were
forced into a brutal decline that continues to this day.  The
even-toed ungulates on the other hand became enormously successful
and diversified.  Zoom out even more on the timescale, and grasses
were just one of those changes that occasionally sweep the planet.
Nothing to become excited about.

Humanity's influence on the biosphere may rate as an extinction
event, but hey, we've had a bunch of those, including really bad
ones.  Every child knows about the Cretaceous-Tertiary mass extinction,
but don't forget that the dinosaurs owed their spectacular success
to the Triassic-Jurassic one.

While I don't necessarily disagree with current conservation efforts,
we are already seeing some strange cases.  Environments that were
created by humans in the first place, only a few centuries or
millennia ago, are considered "natural" ecologies worthy of
preservation.  Here in Germany, people fight to preserve grasslands
that presumably sprung up only after the wholesale deforestation
during the Middle Ages (which, btw, is usually lauded as an
all-wonderful gain in arable land, when it should really be condemned
as an act of catastrophic environmental destruction by today's
Greenish standards).  It has become a standing joke that any piece
of unused wasteland that has been left alone for a few decades has
suddenly turned into a unique biotope that must be preserved.

Christian "naddy" Weisgerber                          naddy at mips.inka.de

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