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Saturday, April 30, 2016

The Right Decision

"Make no choice, and you have chosen.  Failure to decide, because you lack the right, is itself a decision, First Councilor. In abstaining, you vote."

- George R. R. Martin, Tuf Voyaging

Confining animals to parks and other protected areas, which increasingly require our direct management.  Moving animals from one pocket of habitat to another to hold back the specter of inbreeding.  Traipsing through the jungles with our radio collars and camera traps and DNA samplers.  Culling some species to improve the odds of survival of others.  Taking animals into captivity, either to headstart the young or to breed for future reintroduction programs.

So much for "The Wild."

"Back off!" the armchair activists shout!  "Leave it alone," howl the sunshine environmentalists.  "We don't have the right," complain the overly-idealistic conservationist.  We don't.  But we must act anyway.

We're reached a point where many endangered species will only continue to survive because of the same species which is imperiling them in the first place - us.  Many are too far gone to hold on with anything other than our support and direct involvement.  It may not be truly "natural", but little left in this world truly is.

We can decide to use every tool in our toolbox to save an endangered species, or we can decide to do nothing.  But in deciding to do nothing, we are recognizing that we do, in fact, have the power to act, but have opted not to.  In human law, that could be described as criminal negligence.  Should we treat our interactions with the natural world differently?

When the California condor teetered over the edge of extinction, there were those who denounced any effort to directly intervene to save North America's biggest bird.  Better death with dignity, they proclaimed, than an existence in captivity, with every bird banded and tagged.  But there is no dignity in death, and even less in extinction.  There is, however, dignity in the sight of a California condor taking to the air, soaring over the Grand Canyon, or gliding over the forests of Big Sur.  Whether the condor in question was born in a zoo or hatched in the wild from zoo-born birds isn't the issue.  It's still a condor.

And right now, it's as close to wild as we've got.

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