Re: Why preserving BioDiversity is Extropian (was re: Environmental Degradat
Sun, 15 Feb 1998 12:47:33 EST

In a message dated 2/15/98 4:20:25 AM, wrote:

> wrote:
>> Maintaining
>>diversity would probably permit improvements to farming in the
>>future, but it's not necessary. The oxygen you breathe effectively
>>comes from whatever plants fixed the carbon in the food you eat
>>- in other words, the same farm plants.
>Your statement strikes me as naive. Our understanding of the complex
>web of interconnections between food chains is limited at best. It may
>turn out that there is no connection. Howerver, our you willing to risk
>your survival on a hunch there is no connection between biodiversity and
>the *sustainability* of farming?

We can grow virtually any crop plant hydroponically - with nothing
but water, nitrates, and a couple specific salts. We do indeed
know that the plants we depend on do great in the compete absence
of any biodiversity and external biochemistry.

>fertilizers have helped us grow more food, but have also accelerated the
>rate at which that same land can't grow again without the introduction
>of ever greater and more potent fertilizers.

No, it's not that yields are dropping or are going to drop, it's
that to maintain the yields we have to keep dumping in nitrogen.
In some circumstances, our yield are approaching economic maximum
in that adding more nitrogen won't help any. But current nitrogen
additions will keep crop yields going indefinitely, from the
fertilizer side. The main potential problem right now is salinization,
which biodiversity won't help with.

>Besides, the destructiion of biodiversity is not a very extropian thing
>to do as it is a net decrease in overall complexity. Isn't extropianism
>about increasing complexity?

No, it's more about increasing value (in the abstract, not the
economic sense). Complexity may or may not be a good thing.

If your claim is that maintaining biodiversity is a good thing, I've
no disagreement with that. But it's not *necessary* for our
continued existance as a complex, interesting, populous community.