“Making a Mass Anti-Extinction Movement” in Pacific Standard covers some of the concerns that led a group of 49 biologists to pen an open letter calling for a new political consensus on worldwide extinctions. I appreciated this passage that pointed beyond the ecosystem aspects of extinction into the cultural system aspects:
Consider the baboon raids of Africa, for instance. Researchers report baboon populations can skyrocket when an ecosystem loses top predators like lions or leopards. In search of limited food supplies, the overpopulated baboons sometimes raid local farmers’ crops, and a family can thereby lose crucial calories. As a result, people keep their children home from school to guard the food plot. The baboons also bring parasites and other disease into the human communities they frequent. The absence of top predators on the landscape leads to a cascade of unforeseen and unfortunate consequences: The lions are gone so the kids get gut parasites and lose out on education.
The open letter, “Saving the World’s Terrestrial Megafauna” was published in the journal BioScience last month.