The Extinction of Meaning
What good is a butterfly if it does not titillate or tweet?
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My essay on extinction and new threats to the Endangered Species Act is now posted on Medium. Here’s the lede:
One of the most imperiled animals in North America isn’t big and furry like a polar bear. It has neither the charisma of an ivory-billed woodpecker nor the elegance of a prairie fringed orchid. It has incited no eco-wars like those over the gray wolf or the spotted owl. It is not even a tool in the machinery now gearing up to weaken the Endangered Species Act. No, this endangered animal is only a butterfly named Poweshiek skipperling.
Saffron-yellow with frosty-white rays, and no bigger than your thumbnail, the skipperling once flew in untold numbers across prairies from Michigan to Manitoba. Even so, few Americans or Canadians have ever heard of it, let alone seen it. And even though it is already protected under the Endangered Species Act, the Poweshiek skipperling is so imperiled that many of us who have watched it dance across the grasslands probably won’t have the chance to say goodbye.
So why should we save the skipperling? … Read on »
Thank you so much, Bryan, for this essay and for your work on the ground. ‘Yes’ to everything you’ve said… Sad times, and opportune times to make a difference, and I judge that you do just that!
One phrase continues to haunt me, “the extinction of experience . . .”
Well said, and sadly on point. For me it’s the Gunnison Sage Grouse, but I suspect everyone who cares has at least one personal example of something that will leave “a hole in the world” when it winks out. Thanks for reminding us with this clear example of fragility, and of our tendency to look the other way as the canary in the coalmine drops to the ground.
Thanks, Bryan. You remain eloquent of thought and word.
Thanks for the timely, well-argued reminder.
Eloquent. Timely (do we have time?). The best plea-for-the-environment essay I’ve ever read. Its focus on the tiny skipperling within a world of measurably larger crises – which we have created, and within which we might still find so many answers – is inspired. This is a sad and scary time to be a nature-connected person.
May this statement find the readership it deserves. Or may you find a way to state it in 140 characters!