For those of you who don't know, I have been taking a Wildlife in the Modern World class as well as a coinciding seminar recently and an interesting topic has come up recently.
As humans who change the landscape so dramatically, we are altering the course of evolution for animals everywhere.
My Wildlife teacher thinks that this is an unforgivable sin and we should be doing everything within our power to make sure that the animals' evolutionary paths remain as close as possible to natural. This is a lovely ideal I suppose, but rather naive and even more than that, it is impatient.
The man who gave a seminar on the New World Red, Grey, and Eastern Wolves said that, as humans, we feel this need to keep everything in a constant trajectory and the idea of a sudden change or a modification to a plan scares us. We automatically label it as bad. He also said that some of the more far-seeing humans realize that, really, a single wrong step in evolution is not the ruination of the world, just a different possibility being realized. (Well, he did not really say it in so many words, but that is what I got from what he said.)
Until the seminar, my belief that there is no problem with changing the evolutionary course of animals made me feel like a heartless, unfluffed, soul-eating ecologist. Now I feel like I am just practical and maybe being unfluffed will make me less popular, but hell, if we just work towards our ideals and blind ourselves to reality, we will never help anyone.
I have recently discovered that my biggest pet peeve is when people are too damn idealistic. I can't stand it! I am pretty much hugging and hugged by the Universe every day, but my stars! "Don't spend any energy towards people like that, Karma will take care of them." NO IT BLOODY WELL WON'T! People who are passive and idealistic piss me off the most! Famous quote you guys, "All it takes for evil to succeed is for good men to stand by and do nothing." That does not mean that the Universe is a good person who will intervene. In all likelihood, the Universe doesn't give a damn. All it does is take in x and put out y in response to x. Sometimes this means that y=x and other times it means y=-x and sometimes y doesn't give a care about x and goes off and does it's own thing. No matter what, if we ignore this y that the Universe has given, is giving, will give us, then it doesn't matter how much x we do or don't put in.
Sorry about the rant. Back on topic. I agree that no matter what it is bad when we lose biodiversity due to extinction, but I don't believe that the fact that the path of evolution has "changed" is necessarily a negative thing. In fact, I believe that the very idea that we have "changed" the path of evolution is a presumptuous and misinformed opinion. Who knows the path of something as mysterious and eternal as evolution? Who says that there even is a "path"?
The idea that there even is a preordained path on which flora and fauna are supposed to change is completely absurd. Evolution is not a path, it is a series of stresses and responses. The response is the death or inability to breed of those individuals who are not well suited for the current environment or the flourishing of those individuals who have the proper phenome to survive in their environment. Since phenome is determined by genome, only the genome capable of producing a strong phenome will be able to survive. When this is caused by a population that has been separated from their normal environment, this effect creates a new species after a long time.
It seems to me that people who find that this type of change is unacceptable when the cause is humans are the same as the environmentalists who shoved the Native Americans into little Reserves with limited land around them then cut the forests off from human interaction and are only now discovering that because of the lack of controlled burns, we are now facing uncontrolled burns that are truly harmful for the environment. What do they think will happen to animals if they try their hardest to keep them from adapting and evolving to the environment which we humans are creating? If they have been so protected, the second we let our eyes off of them, they will find that they have no survival specialties and they will all interbreed with coyotes. Well, at least the Red Wolves that we are trying to preserve will.
We need to accept that humans are a part of the environment now. We may be more invasive than Blackberries and more harmful than Kudzu, but we are still an invasive species that has changed the land. We have a habit to hate ourselves to the point of trying to rid the world of us, but really, we just want to get back to what we were hundreds of years ago... or at least what we idealize we were hundreds of years ago. Since that will never happen, we need to accept that we are here to stay for a while. Maybe the Earth will decide we are annoying and kill us off or maybe we will kill ourselves off and most of the planet with us, but the most important thing to remember is this:
Against all odds, life formed on this planet. The one in a million chance worked out. Even if this world destroys itself because we reached too far and cared too little, who is to say that this hasn't happened thousands of times on thousands of planets in thousands of universes. What ever happens, our end isn't The End. Who knows, maybe our world will seem dead, but those bacteria, the little guys who apparently started this all, will come up again and begin everything for another time around.
No matter what, things will continue and thousands of chances from now that one in a million chance for life will come again. No matter the odds, eventually, someone wins the lottery every time.
Perhaps I sound like a jerk who doesn't care about our earth despite being Pagan and a future ecologist, but this is how I see the world. To be limited by our own selfish ideas of what is right would also limit our growth as beings. I would love it if we weren't such an annoying invasive species. I would love it if we didn't screw up almost every chance we are given to be better, but that is how it is. Even if I spend my life working against the collective selfishness, at least I can do so aware that I am a part of the collective and that it may be selfish, but it is also the only way most humans know how to survive and that part of human nature may never change. It is our history, our present, and seems to be our future. Conquer, dominate, over-exploit, repeat.