Act Slowly on the Environment — We Might Be Wrong!

As readers of this blog already know, it is rare that I agree with an editorial from the LA Times. Today marks an exception – at least a partial one: http://www.latimes.com/news/opinion/editorials/la-ed-fructose12-2010apr12,0,7795505.story
The part of the editorial with which I agree most is the final sentence: “It’s wise to remember that what we “know” today might we be disproved tomorrow.” It reminds me of an exchange in the old Woody Allen movie, “Sleeper” (courtesy Wikipedia):
Dr. Melik: (listing items Miles had requested for breakfast) “… wheat germ, organic honey, and… Tiger’s Milk.”
Dr. Aragon: “Oh, yes. Those are the charmed substances that some years ago were thought to contain life-preserving properties.”
Dr. Melik: “You mean there was no deep fat? No steak or cream pies or… hot fudge?”
Dr. Aragon: “Those were thought to be unhealthy… precisely the opposite of what we now know to be true.”
Dr. Melik: “Incredible!”
Reflecting on our environmental “genius”, I offer the following true story. Our pal Smokey the Bear was the symbol of fire suppression in our national parks and forests – an official government management plan that endured for decades. Lo and behold, this plan was endangering the Giant Sequoias, which require forest fires to allow these slow-growing plants to compete successfully with other vegetation. Recently, the official government policy was reversed. Our government was doing exactly the wrong thing – as foretold comically in “Sleeper.”
In short, we’re not nearly as smart as we think we are – and the future will undoubtedly prove us to be … human.
In the Times editorial, they are urging caution in enacting laws that restrict food offerings and impose dietary restrictions. I heartily endorse that sentiment. But I wish I could convince the Times to take a similar stance on global warming and the fad-of-our-time, “going green.”
Also in the Times today, Jill Leovy laments the long time required to get the Fisher listed as an endangered species: http://www.latimes.com/news/local/la-me-fisher12-2010apr12,0,5586570.story. And the Associated Press laments the apparent decline in the gray whale population: http://hosted.ap.org/dynamic/stories/U/US_WHALE_MYSTERY?SITE=CAVIC&SECTION=HOME&TEMPLATE=DEFAULT.
I found the former article of interest because of something I heard directly from a veteran naturalist in Yosemite National Park, less than two years ago: in his many years in the backcountry, he had only seen a fisher once – they are very fast and very shy. So are they really endangered, or are they just too smart for us?
Regarding the latter article, I recall just a few weeks ago that southern California whale watchers were having the greatest season in memory. What happened in the last month? Maybe the whales went somewhere else in the largest body of water in the known universe?
When it comes to “saving” the environment, I think the Times sentiment is right on the money: go slowly. Do it right the first time!
I will be out of town for the next couple of days, so I hope to post again on Thursday. See you then. If you miss me, catch up on some of the blogs in the archive!

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