I’ve been lucky to be here in the Newport area, seeing what the Oregon State University is doing around many many issues tied to marine biology, marine engineering, oceanography, geophysics, fisheries science, and sea life as food products.
I went to a media summit, Monday, where 12 journalists in Oregon met with many scientists, some from OSU, some from other agencies. This is at the Hatfield Marine Sciences Center, which has been teaching students and doing research for more than 50 years. I’ve written about some of that research in this blog space. I’ll continue to do more.
I was there to learn and to make sure there was a realized tension between journalists and scientists, between a writer and reporter and scientists who are doing research around myriad of issues, some of which are looking to help communities (human), some to help marine (like gray whales, oysters) and others helping develop boondoggles like wave and wind “energy” in our near shore seas.
Drones over gray whales to study their size, activities, levels of stress. We’ve had many strandings of whales, and I am sure, there are twice as many whales dead out in the ocean, dead but sunken to the bottom that do not get recorded. Plastics, chemicals, noise pollution, and food sources diminished.
Some OSU scientists are working on “the next big one,” that is, a huge (8.0 or higher magnitude) earthquake as part of the Cascadia Subduction Zone. Others on coastal hazards (erosion, inundation, stormy waves, more) tied to rising oceans, which of course is tied to climate change, which is global warming, which is the melting of the world’s ice!
Missing in some of this was any discussion about biodiversity for biodiversty’s sake, that is, for the right of nature. EVERYTHING is tied to the human lens, really, even gray whale research — how fishermen and ships can get along with whales. Imagine, 333,000 cetaceans and pinnipeds killed globally from fishing gear. Imagine, how blithe the human condition is, not only to the death of biodiversity, but to its own race, species.
Here, Carl Safina, writing at Yale360 about why scientists need to stop their anthropomorphic b.s. by saying holding firm on biodiversity is a non-starter.
In the early 20th century, a botanist named Robert F. Griggs discovered Katmai’s volcanic “Valley of Ten Thousand Smokes.” In love with the area, he spearheaded efforts to preserve the region’s wonders and wildlife. In 1918, President Woodrow Wilson established Katmai National Monument (now Katmai National Park and Preserve), protecting 1,700 square miles, thus ensuring a home for bear cubs born a century later, and making possible my indelible experience that day. As a legacy for Griggs’ proclivity to share his love of living things, George Washington University later established the Robert F. Griggs Chair in Biology.
That chair is now occupied by a young professor whose recent writing probably has Griggs spinning in his grave. He is R. Alexander Pyron. A few months ago, The Washington Post published a “Perspective” piece by Pyron that is an extreme example of a growing minority opinion in the conservation community, one that might be summarized as, “Humans are profoundly altering the planet, so let’s just make peace with the degradation of the natural world.”
No biologist is entitled to butcher the scientific fundamentals on which they hang their opinions.
Pyron’s essay – with lines such as, “The only reason we should conserve biodiversity is for ourselves, to create a stable future for human beings” and “[T]he impulse to conserve for conservation’s sake has taken on an unthinking, unsupported, unnecessary urgency” – left the impression that it was written in a conservative think tank, perhaps by one of the anti-regulatory zealots now filling posts throughout the Trump administration. Pyron’s sentiments weren’t merely oddly out of keeping with the legacy of the man whose name graces his job title. Much of what Pyron wrote is scientifically inaccurate. And where he stepped out of his field into ethics, what he wrote was conceptually confused.
Pyron has since posted, on his website and Facebook page, 1,100 words of frantic backpedaling that land somewhere between apology and retraction, including mea culpas that he “sensationalized” parts of his own argument and “cavalierly glossed over several complex issues.” But Pyron’s original essay and his muddled apology do not change the fact that the beliefs he expressed reflect a disturbing trend that has taken hold among segments of the conservation community. And his article comes at a time when conservation is being assailed from other quarters, with a half-century of federal protections of land being rolled back, the Endangered Species Act now more endangered than ever, and the relationship between extinction and evolution being subjected to confused, book-length mistreatment.
Time now to get the perspective of friend and farmer, fellow hard left socialists, Joe the Farmer from Merced. What he writes as a 66-year-old, is powerful, something the powers that be never hear, never consider, or never take seriously. Safina is amazing.
I’ve been busier than a cat covering shit lately but finally took time to read the “In Defense of Biodiversity” essay you sent. This Pyron asshole doesn’t surprise me at all. He’s just another corporate tool cranked out by one of the Ivey League schools whose job it is to keep predatory capitalism on track. It’s funny, as I read his name, “Pyron” I thought of Prions* the little maladjusted, juvenile delinquent proteins that don’t need DNA to reproduce, that attach themselves to a healthy proteins and transform them into a identically maladjusted Prions. The little buggers are also known for mad cow disease. Pyron is the perfect Prion in the brave new world of Andrew Wheeler.
One only look at the nut scrotum of California, Merced County to get an idea of how man is destroying everything he touches in his pursuit of profits. In my lifetime the changes to this area are unfathomable. The plants and wildlife I was so familiar with as a kid are almost, if not all gone. Canals that once teamed with life are now void of almost all life.
Horned toads that young fellows used to walk around with to scare the Hell out of young girls at school are long gone. Same goes for the toads that used to be everywhere on a hot night around a porch light feasting on a dinner of bugs. The transformation happened at incredible speed. Ground water has fallen at incredible rates killing many trees and plants that used to thrive in this area.
What has been left is an environment that has been altered by chemicals and machinery that keeps the agribusiness system of farming chugging along. Nothing else has any value to these assholes that no longer call themselves farmers but rather producers or growers. In their zeal to farm fence-post to fence post everything is drenched in herbicides. What few creatures that managed to adapt to the chemicals get mowed by flail mowers or swathers that they can’t flee from because the machinery is so powerful and fast. The extensive use of herbicides has turned what used to be fairly easy plants to control into super weeds that you can barely chop out of the ground with an ax. Every time a new problem occurs an army of University students show up and dedicate their energies to creating a new chemical or machine to further take us into a new world of sci-fi wackery.
It’s a world I find so disgusting that I have started rooting for the weeds and viruses and bugs to take it all down. I hate what agriculture has become. The humanity is gone from it. It’s just another factory dumping its effluent on the environment at the expense of everything else. And then a clown like Monty Pyron comes along and declares what I have valued all my life doesn’t matter. It makes me want to strangle the highly educated shit out of the idiot along with the army of Trumpian imbeciles that make of his agencies leaders.
In a way Monty Pyron is right. New species have evolved to fill the niche that was left when others went extinct. They are the soulless MBA’s, CEO’s, K-Street Lobbyists, Military Industrialist, Congressmen and Senators, Banksters and Judges that have evolved to keep this inhumane system going. Scientists with a conscious are a dying breed just like I am. Relics of the past.
*Prions are misfolded proteins with the ability to transmit their misfolded shape onto normal variants of the same protein. They characterize several fatal and transmissible neurodegenerative diseases in humans and many other animals.