In yesterday's New York Times (Tue. 1/2/96), there's an article "Numerous U.S. Plant and Freshwater Species Found in Peril."
The second paragraph states: "In a report being issued today, a private conservation group, the Nature Conservancy, said the study had found that mammals and birds were doing relatively well compared with other groups, but that a high proportion of flowering plants and freshwaters species like mussels, crayfish and fish were in trouble."
That's no typo. It wasn't meant to say "mussels, crayfish and catfish" or "mussels, crayfish and goldfish". When they say fish, they mean it. All freshwater fish.
In paragraph eight we learn, "The four groups with the highest percentages of species at risk of extinction are freshwater mussels (67.1 percent), crayfish (64.8 percent), amphibians (37.9 percent) and freshwater fish (37.2 percent). All four groups depend on rivers, streams or lakes. The organization's scientists attributed the declines in these groups to poor water quality and the long-term effect of dams and other water diversions. The groups with the lowest percentages of species at risk were birds (13.9 percent) and mammals (16.1 percent).
Meanwhile in today's NY Times (Wed. 1/3/96), there's an article entitled "Monarch Butterflies Killed by Snow in Mexican Winter Home". The article explains that severe snowstorms have killed up to as many as 60 percent of the species in recent years, but behind the snowstorms lies another problem related to the capitalist economy.
It says, "...butterfly scientists are concerned that the slow logging of the fir trees in the Mexican reserves, despite Government prohibitions, is leaving the monarchs more vulnerable to severe storms and cold. Local farmers who make a meager living by selling lumber and firewood have continued to quietly cut the trees."
What is the use-value of a Largemouth Bass or a Monarch Butterfly? Do they have exchange value either? I try to imagine the American lakes and rivers without trout or bass, or the meadows without butterflies and it is a pretty depressing thought.
A socialist ecology should think through the ways in which these sorts of themes can resonate with the population. We have always dwelt on the need for food, shelter or clothing as constituing the basic necessities of life. Shouldn't we consider broader questions such as the need for a healthy and inspiring natural environment? Without abundant flora and fauna, doesn't society begin to resemble a large stainless steel and concrete edifice? Wasn't the struggle of the American Indian to some extent an effort to preserve these elements of existence that can't be quantified, only felt?
I have been thinking deeply about these sorts of questions and will have more to say in about six months or so.