(Tom Toles)
Editorial cartoonist

The Post published what could be described as a pro-extinction article recently, in what I presume was an attempt to shed light on . . . actually, I’m not sure what it was intended to shed light on. The premise was: Don’t worry about mass extinctions, because eventually new species will replace extinct ones. I would say this article is an example of a new species of specious. It is an argument that serves to hasten the mass destruction of the Earth’s environment and concoct yet another reason not to worry about it.

The argument seems to be an offshoot subspecies of the “climate changes all the time” strategy, which itself is a direct descendant of all the other climate obfuscation efforts. And the reassurance it offers is just as misleading and dangerous. “Earth’s long-term recovery is guaranteed by history (though the process will be slow).” Ah, yes, though the process will be “slow.” What a fathomless breadth of eons that little word is asked to camouflage. We may lose our species, and all the rich, vibrant ecosystems we treasure, but in some vast distant future, further away by far than all of human history, there will be something else to replace them. Comforted yet?

And of course the article trots out the usual suspect of an obscure species to dismiss and dispose of to start the ball rolling. Rio Pescado stubfoot toads will do. “They will go extinct one day, and the world will be none the poorer for it. Eventually, they will be replaced by a dozen or a hundred new species that evolve later.” Yes, yes, “eventually.” And how casually we are instructed not to miss the funny-named toad. “The world will be none the poorer.” I beg to differ.

Yes, we would in fact be poorer by some measure to have another species deducted from our current wealth and variety of life. And we will be cataclysmically impoverished if this attitude is extended toward species in general. Each has a value, but taken together, all create webs of mutual sustenance and irreplaceable value — unless you consider “replaceable” to mean sometime after all of our descendants are likely gone and unable to continue the process of heedless extermination themselves.

So let the destruction of climate proceed apace, we are counseled. The concern about species destruction is hereby swept away, as so many other concerns have been. Species? We’ll be well rid of them! Healthy ecosystems? Bah, humbug! As long as people get fed, that’s all that matters. And what if, while we are grabbing that bite, the collapse of climate and ecosystems turns around to bite us? Um …

For those of you who may not be so cavalier about a short-sighted, self-serving rampage of destruction and extinction, here’s some information that actually is of some value and use.

Wisdom is just one more thing we are toying with letting go extinct.