.. To undertake a gargantuan task: calculate the value of all the services provided by all the ecosystems, from the forest to the floodplains to the open ocean, across the world.. They came up with a number- 3 trillion a year- a headline-grabbing figure that was almost twice the global gross national product.
Eating dinner with conservation biologists was like walking through a minefield of ethical decisions: grasslands have been overgrazed by steer raised for beef, and all cattle emit greenhouse gases though enteric fermentation; the poop from industrially raised chickens poisons the Chesapeake; the Amazon has been slashed and burned for soy--and don't even mention seafood. To this bunch of herpetologists, the sin of ordering shrimp lay in the bycatch--young fish, and especially sea turtles, caught in the nets and discarded, dead or dying.
It may be underfunded and at times mismanaged, but the [Endangered Species] Act is an unprecedented attempt to delegate human-caused extinction to the chapters of history we would rather not revisit: the Slave Trade, the Indian Removal Policy, the subjection of women, child labor, segregation. The Endangered Species Act is a zero-tolerance law: no new extinctions. It keeps eyes on the ground with legal backing-the gun may be in the holster most of the time, but its available if necessary to keep species from disappearing. I discovered in my travels that a law protecting all animals and plants, all of nature, might be as revolutionary-and as American-as the Declaration of Independence.