Wednesday, 29 September 2010
It's a difficult (but undeniably popular) subject, extinction, with all manner of claims being made about how many species are 'facing extinction' and how many extinctions are happening each year. Consider this - a pretty representative story - and wonder, as I do, what it actually means and how seriously we should take it. Then ponder the implications of this finding, and throw into the mix the fact that all estimates of the number of species on Earth are guesswork - no one really has a clue, and there's probably no way of ever knowing. Every time the more biodiverse and/or less thoroughly explored habitats - rainforest, deep oceans - are examined closely, they yield hundreds, thousands of new species. My suspicion is that we know too little about the natural world to make any kind of authoritative judgments about matters of extinction. The Earth is always bigger and infinitely more complex - and resilient - than we take it for.