First, I am so impressed with everyone’s responses to S-Little’s question. I toyed with the idea of writing out what I should have written, taking into account your comments on the question – but that didn’t seem fair. I will share my immediate response to her but would love it if you can provide suggestions for a better and/or more complete answer!
Let me first set the scene: We were talking about hockey like good Canadians and then S-Little asked about her science class and how conservation may affect evolution (background).
It is a great question and something that I’ve wondered about but not researched. One thing that we have to remember is that evolution takes a long time so we can’t really see it happening. (her response: but if we went into the future, would taking away a forest the same as an ice age?)
One thing that is important is that humans are changing the world around us very quickly and it isn’t always for our survival. Not everyone lives as comfortably as Canadians – they still grow up and have babies for example. Canadians use up a lot of the world’s resources to live so well. I know that walking to school can be a pain but it might help to think about how it saves some gas and maybe some nature.
Yes, some conservation efforts include breeding programs for endangered species. Some of nature has changed so quickly or animals have been hunted so they are in really small numbers. The hope with a lot of breeding programs is to help these animals have enough numbers to survive in the wild. It is important that their homes be ready for them though – the program needs to be bigger than just helping them have babies because if they don’t have a natural place to live, they will always be in zoos. (her response: if they are just in zoos, does that count as saving them?)
We talked about canaries in coal mines (that was fun!). I explained that early mines didn’t have ways to bring in air so miners would take in canaries. These birds are sensitive to the dangerous gases released in coal mining so they would get sick or die before the men. When miners saw a canary die, they knew that it was time to get out of the mine and breathe normal air so they wouldn’t get sick.
Having a lot of animals go extinct is a bit like the canary situation. Humans are animals (as S-Little explained so well) and if other animals can’t survive, maybe we are hurting the earth too much for our own survival. Plus, humans are smart enough to realize that this is happening so we should be able to do something about it. It would suck if we brought about our own destruction.
So, I didn’t answer the question but we talked more about why conservation may be important for human survival.
Let the well-deserved critique begin. I’ve created an etherpad page so we can all edit the *best* response to her question. [UPDATE: etherpad no longer active]
Note: one of my favourite S-Little questions: what is the hardest question you have had to answer?