Endangered Species: We Need Them As They Need Us

Adam Smith once said, “Human is an animal of desire. ” In this respect, humans have made tremendous economic and technological development based on that desire, which also led to countless destructions of nature and wildlife. Accordingly, many species have been gone extinct or close to being extinct, which are referred to as endangered animals. The given article, “The Real Case for Saving Species: We Don’t Need Them, But They Need Us”, provides a unique perspective toward the current issues regarding the annihilation of wildlife. Although it is agreeable that the conservation of wildlife promotes the beauty of our unique world and that our ethical belief should be the basis of such protection, it is still debatable about the necessity of wildlife for our survival.

The author of the given article first lures the reader by denying the common belief of people, that we need to protect endangered species because we need them to protect ourselves. Safina argues that it is not the necessity of those endangered animals nor the practicality that motivates us to protect them. However, the beauty that is created by our environment should be the reason for saving those animals from extinction. There are thousands of other planets in the universe, but none of them have living organisms like on the Earth. In this sense, Safina describes the Earth as a “sacred place”, where the natural life generates the artistry. By seeing the world from outside of the box of a capitalistic society, we can realize how beautiful our planet rather than seeing the materialistic value of nature and wildlife. Moreover, he puts that the Endangered Species Act does not signify human’s existence depends on wild animals or plants, but we are the ones who try to stop the extinction of other species (Safina, 2019). In other words, the explanation of protecting endangered species based on the need of human beings is insufficient, as his example of jaguars are not a necessity for our lives. And therefore, he asserts that we should protect wild species selflessly, for the beauty that diverse animals on this planet create.

Such an argument redirects our view toward the current world we live in by focusing on the collaborative result of a beautiful planet of both human and wild animals and plants. By expressing our planet as a miracle, Safina broke the conventional explanation of saving the endangered species, because we need them to survive, and proposed a different reason of trying to keep this beautiful planet by our morality. Such belief of his is also shown on his Ted talk, where he states that animals also feel feelings similar to human beings. However, although we harm them so much by exploiting the natural life and polluting our environment without such recognition, they do not harm even when they can. On the other hand, they rather respect and fear the dignity of another form of life. During his speech, he takes an example of an anecdote of Denise Herzing, the founder and research director of the Wild Dolphin Project, and her team. Dolphins always recognized her and had friendly meetings except once when someone passed away on her ship, and this is because animals have feelings. This amplifies his assertion of conserving the wildlife from our morality, as they have feelings as we do.

In response to Safina’s opinion, I agree to some part, that protecting wild species should be for the beauty of the planet and should be derived from our morality. There is no controversy on the beauty of nature, which has been proven by the tourism industries of the United States. Over 200 million tourists visit National Parks every year to witness the intact beauty of our nature and millions of people participate in wildlife-related activities to explore the amazement of wild animals and plants. By protecting them, not only we can preserve the natural artistry of our planet, but also generate multi-billion dollars of revenue that is also interconnected with other industries such as transportation, accommodation, and restaurant businesses just to name a few. By protecting the ecosystem and thereby saving endangered species, we can eat our cake and have it at the same time.

Moreover, it is also true that animals have feelings as we do, and it is reasonable to think that by destroying their habitat, exploiting them, and threatening their existence is immoral. We can never directly experience what other being feels, whether that being is human or not and whether the feeling is happiness or pain. The only way we can estimate how others feel is to observe their reaction to a certain situation. Although they cannot speak, we can infer when physical stress is inflicted on an animal, they feel pain. According to Peter Singer, the nervous system of vertebrates, especially birds and mammals, are fundamentally similar to that of humans, which even more puts strength to the statement that animals feel the emotion that we do. In the same vein, Safina argues that extinction is not the expense of advancement of civil society, but rather is an unnecessary cost of negligence. Hence, it plausible to say destroying natural habitat and bring the existence of natural life to the bay for the prosperity of mankind is unethical and narcissistic.

However, I disagree with the point that the protection of endangered species should not be propelled for our survival because there is no such correlation and it is not true. Defining wildlife unnecessary for human survival, in my understanding, is similar to denying the definition of an ecosystem. The ecosystem signifies an interacting system, in which organisms and inanimate objects of the surrounding environment dynamically affect each other. Moreover, the reciprocal influence of the living and non-living things in our world has been validated by past studies, which helped to prove the environmental damage that toxic pesticides, such as DDT, have killed wild species and will end up killing ourselves. That is, without protecting the wild animals and plants, the damage that has incurred on them will end up causing harm to us as well.

Furthermore, the balance of the world will be even more difficult to maintain. As every organism impacts another within an ecosystem, the loss of one species has a high possibility of triggering the loss of the others. As a case in point, when grey wolves of the Yellowstone National Park were hunted down to almost extinction, the population of beavers also decreased dramatically. This was because elks, whose natural predator is grey wolves, increased in population and fed on limited food that beaver as well needs to survive the winter. As such, we humans yet do not have the knowledge of the environment to the extent of what will happen when a single species becomes extinct, which can lead to a devastating impact on humans. Plus, a well-balanced ecosystem purifies the environment, and thus provides us with fresh air, a healthy oceanic system, and arable land for agricultural production. I believe that this is part of the miracle that Safina referred to when he was explaining how beautiful our planet is. If there were no such natural operations, it is evident that humans will suffer, and it is quite apparent that the side effects of the deteriorated ecosystem have already affected human beings and our environment.

Finally, wild animals and plants provide us with essential medical substances. Out of 150 most prescribed medicines, over 50% of the chemicals originate from wild animals and plants, and according to the statistics provided by the U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service, more than 25% of the medicines prescribed every year contains ingredients from animals. In addition, only in America, there are still tens of thousands of people every year that are dying from diseases without a cure, whom can be saved by the 95% of untested species. There are way too high potential and the possibility of unexplored species that might be the source of new medicine to disappear. Accordingly, we should protect wildlife before they disappear from nature for the possibility of finding a new cure to diseases beyond the 5% of species that have been medically tested.

In conclusion, Safina is demanding us to protect endangered animals not because they are necessary for our survival, but because we are a being with ethics and empathy and because nature as a whole construct a beauty that can never be replaced with anything else. Hence, it can be said that he aims to work on the conservation of the endangered animals until the motivation of the protection is transformed from our necessity to our moral stance. However, although he is right about the beauty of the world and ethics of protecting other creatures that should be in our minds when conserving the nature, it is also important for us to maintain the ecosystem for our good as well as the wildlife.

10 October 2020
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