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From: Ted.Held at hstna.com on 2001.11.07 at 16:16:44(7771)
I knew when this started that my comment would touch a nerve among the more
ideological among the list members. I guess I am just an optimist about the
world. Throughout the history of life (as we know it currently) there have
been some pretty remarkable cataclysms where the number of species have
been reduced dramatically by all estimates. It is probably the case that at
any given "stable" time that a large fraction of the extant species exist
in a rather precarious situation. Something comes along and shakes things
up (and I suppose this could be construed as "habitat loss" except that as
that phrase is usually used in today's parlance it means the whole "parking
lot" business - not "natural" climate changes, vulcanization, meteor
strikes, ice ages, etc.) and a host of the more specialized species get the
rug pulled out from under them. In fact, if the "trajectory" of all the
species present at any one time could be known and plotted, one would find
that some are on the ascendency, vigorous, robust, while others are in
decline, weak and prone to succumb to shocks of various sorts. Naturally,
some of the weak species are really cool from the parachial human
perspective. A lot of the coolest plants that this list likes are in that
category. But from the standpoint of the history of the world, whether
people like a particular life form does not matter very much.

To be sure, people are now able to intervene in evolution in both good ways
and bad. We can make parking lots and we can artificially propagate cool
plants and animals and keep them going. From the comments I read about the
Philodendron spiritus-sancti it is not clear why it is such a rare plant.
Maybe it is because some preferred habitat is now a parking lot. Maybe it
is because the plant was being overwhelmed by more successful species and
is hanging naturally on the edge of extinction. Someone brought up the
Franklinia issue a day or so ago.The reason Franklinia was hanging by a
thread when rescued had nothing to do with loss of habitat then. There is
no lack of habitat for Franklinia to be reintroduced into the "wild" today.

The point is that species extinction is a really old thing and that for the
vast majority of extinctions human parking lot building had absolutely no
role. That this is happening today is not a valid opposing argument.

I will now be silent on this topic unless people want to write me off-list.


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