Reality Blind - Vol. 1

on individuals over groups , the resulting compound bias might be termed ‘ extinction blindness ’ .

We live in a natural world which is populated by an amazing abundance of other species, from single-celled plants and animals to the varied and complex organisms like sequoia trees, bonobos and bowhead whales. What we see around us is wonderful! We can effortlessly look at a picture of nature and point out the wildlife. Looking at a coral reef or a forest scene, we see and are attracted to the creatures in it, large and small. But this is also a vastly unusual time; what we are experiencing is only the sixth planetary mass extinction in the last half-billion years, the sort of all-encompassing event which forever changes the nature of life on earth. Yet for most of us, we have been habituated to take this in stride as “ normal ” reality. We can ’ t “ see ” this is a momentous time in planetary history. Just as people will donate to a starving child but not to a group of starving children, empathy is something one extends to an individual animal, not an entire species. Thus, it ’ s not hard to be blind to extinction if we haven ’ t had a personal experience with the species that is lost. Although it is possible for humans to form intense bonds with individuals of other species, our hard-wired hunter-gatherer heuristics consider other species to be either predators, competitors, or a resource to be claimed before another human group does. And of course, most humans now live in cities and don ’ t interact with many species anyway. We have created a system in which there is only a value placed on “ processed ” wild species to add to Gross Domestic Product. Indeed, our “ baselines ” now include the expectation of regular scientific reports and news articles about animals going extinct. It ’ s part of the “ new normal .” . When this is all put together with myth and scarcity, Veblen goods and social signaling, one winds up with tiger penises, rhino horn, and ivory knick-knacks having monetary value, while living tigers, rhinos, and elephants are charity cases destined for history books: extinction blindness . TaaL: Modern human culture has created extinction-seeking behavior. The dodo bird is famous as an extinct species. Humans didn ’ t eat them. You just considered it fun to kill them with clubs. Indeed, everywhere there have been massive amounts of biomass, there have been mass killings having nothing much to do with food or utility. Buffalo were shot by the thousands from train cars, and left to rot, by people simply wanting to pump lead into large animals. Passenger pigeons were shot for sport. Sharks


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