The Ishmael Community: Questions and Answers
The Question (ID Number 649)...
I live near a Lake Champlain in the northeastern US. The lake has various "nuisance" species such as lampreys, zebra mussels, and Eurasian milfoil. These are not native to this ecosystem but have been introduced by human activity. The government spends a great deal of money on control measures for these species -- mechanical, biological, and chemical -- such as applying TFM (3-trifluoromethyl-4-nitrophenol) to tributaries to kill lamprey larvae. As I understand the message of Ishmael, these measures should be discouraged because they are based on the view that humans should be in control of what plants and animals live in the lake. That is, that we decide how the ecosystem should function and attempt to align it with our ideals. Based on my study of your work I conclude we should leave the lake to evolve with the new species, but I have a kernel of doubt about my conclusion since humans were responsible for the ecosystem being changed in the first place. Can you share your thoughts on this?
...and the response:
Both points of view have their merits and can be supported by good arguments (as you have done). As I've said in many places, there is no one right way for people to live, and this is an instance of that. I can't say that allowing these "nuisance species" to live is "right" and killing them is "wrong." Nor can I say that repairing the mistake of introducing these species is "right" and letting the mistake stand is "wrong." In other words, I can't tell you which side you should be supporting--there are reasonable grounds for supporting both sides. Only God and politicians are capable of taking an absolute stand on every issue--and I'm neither.
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