• http://ecosalon.com Sara

    It’s a very difficult dilemma. In a way, no species is original – they all evolved or migrated at some point. And, of course, you can extend this debate to humans – just look at the controversy with that.

    I certainly don’t know the answer. I tend to take a utilitarian view – whatever is best, on balance, or causes least harm, on balance. But I suppose assessing that is most of the battle.

  • http://www.thegoodhuman.com David@TheGoodHuman

    I am not sure of the “correct” thing to do either – and while I am For making changes in situations where we might lose a species or something like that, I am also Against messing with Mother Nature. Sure, in this instance man brought those creatures to the island, but maybe whatever happens to them is supposed to happen because they are not supposed to be there. Eventually, everything returns to the way it “should” be, so maybe it’s better to leave things like this alone? Not sure if there is a right or wrong answer on this – can any scientists or biologists weigh in?

  • http://ergosum01 Adam Shake

    You pose two very good questions, and as you’ve pointed out, these are rather “hindsight” questions, as we can all agree that introducing invasive (non-native) species into a biosphere is always a bad idea. But let’s assume (like you have) that this has already taken place.

    The question I have is are any animal eradication projects environmentally responsible?

    This poses an interesting problem. How do we rate the “worth” of one species over another? When we eradicate animals, we are placing a negative worth on them compared to the ones we are trying to save. In this case, we are trying to save the species that is indiginous to the area and eradicate the one that we let loose on the native animal population.

    To answer your question, I would not condone an animal eradication project without some serious thought and study as to how it will effect a possible chain reaction. (like the one you pointed out) Too often, people or organizations react based on their vested interests without studying the outcome of their actions. So yes, (but only after complete study of possible effects, and only if we (humans) were the ones who caused the problem in the first place.

    Your second proposed idea “natural disaster could wipe out one of two competing species allowing the latter to thrive unchecked, and impact the ecosystem as an invasive species. In this case it is natural but is it any less devastating?” is also interesting because it implies that we “own” nature. How?

    If nature wipes out one species due to natural disaster, disease etc.. and another species grows at a rate that is harmful to the environment, to say that this is devastating, is to place our own value system on nature. When we say “Nature Is…” we place ownership on it and when we do that, we allow ourselves the freedom to manipulate it.

    In short:

    1. If we cause a problem, we are bound by moral and ethical reasons to try to correct it, but only after studying our actions impact on the problem.

    2. If we are not the cause of the problem, but it is “Nature Itself” that has created the situation, then I think that we are also bound by moral and ethical reasons to let nature run her course.

    Excellent article, and sorry for being so long winded.

    Adam Shake

  • http://redgreenandblue.org Tim

    Matt- You raise a valid point. My take on it is this: Finding ‘balance’ however it is defined, is a social endeavor. Humans have decided what the proper ecological balance of things is in many cases. But doing so — finding that balance — is like hitting a moving target.

    The example I like to use has to do with the eradication of wolves from American West. Without natural predators, deer and elk populations have skyrocketed. If you go to Rocky Mountain National Park you will see an elk herd that is much larger than the park can sustain. As a result, this year the park service just started a culling program to thin the heard. In stead of another human intervention like this to restore the ecological ‘balance’ I would argue what we need is a reintroduction of wolves.

  • Hugh

    There’s a sense here of already being too far down the path to just let things go. It’s a variation on an old cliche, in this case, “damned if you do more, damned if you don’t do more.” My opinion is that while further animal eradication programs are an unpleasant thought, there may be further unanticipated consequences for suspending the cleanup of a major man-made mini disaster. This is a sad lesson in the unintended byproducts of our best intentions, but one we can’t just put aside until a more stable environment is achieved.

  • http://www.thedailygreen.com BCH

    I know some animal rights groups are opposed to removing invasive species, which is an interesting position. I generally think we should try to minimize ecological harm as much as possible.

  • http://greenupgrader.com Matt Embrey

    @BCH – Agreed, but given a problem that already exists whats the best way to do it? Killing off 100,000 cute little bunny rabbits, or letting them ravage all of the native vegetation at an unsustainable rate?

  • Levi Novey

    I think we have a responsibility to try to solve the problem, even in these instances where we keep seeming to do more harm than good.

  • http://www.greenhomehints.com Justin

    I think it would be best to let Nature repair itself and for us to stop trying to fix things all together.

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