Welcome to Perspectives, a blog of thoughts, commentary and observations ranging from autistic adolescents to intimate portraits of urban communities.


Janzen on Diversity

Dan Janzen, MacArthur Fellow and Kyoto Prize winner, divides his time between the University of Pennsylvania, where he teaches biology, and Costa Rica, where he and his wife, Winnie Hallwachs, devote their lives to protecting  Guanacaste Conservation Area, one of the most diverse places on earth. Janzen is a blunt and colorful speaker on the importance of diversity, as shown in this excerpt from an article by Richard Coniff in takepart: [I asked Janzen] about ‘keystone species’ – the ones on which whole ecosystems depend – and the ripple effects when such a species goes extinct. “You tell me what species on the planet is not an important part of the life cycle,” he demanded. “As for so-called keystone species, that simply means a species whose removal happens to create a set of ripples big enough for a two-meter-tall, diurnal, nearly deaf, nearly dumb, nearly odor-incompetent, nearly taste-incompetent, urban invasive species to see, or bother to see, the ripple."

We manage not to care, or we pretend not to notice, that the “extinction of any species will impact the lives of a number of other species.” Humans have been doing that with “the attendant shrug of the shoulders,” since the Pleistocene. “We specialize in the elimination of species to make space for us and our domesticates, and we are now busily polishing off the entire field to zero competition, with very few of ‘them,’ leaving ourselves as the last competitor standing. Kind of obvious how that is going to end.”

Wonder Out Yonder