Every few days, Mr. Pister drives up to Fish Slough to check on his pupfish. Sometimes he brings lunch, a ham sandwich. He keeps a lookout for the other creatures that depend on the marsh, like raptors and Fish Slough springsnails — a native snail the size of a pinhead that is found nowhere else in the world. It has no lifeboat, no Phil Pister to ensure it will survive the next century. Some people wonder if such insignificant species are worth the trouble of saving; he does not.
“People used to say, ‘What good are they?’” he said. To which he would reply: “‘Well, what good are you?’ (emphasis added).”
Wednesday, October 6, 2021
#279 / Saved By A Bucket
The New York Times ran an article on August 17, 2021, entitled, "Saved by a Bucket." In her article, science writer Sabrina Imbler tells how Phil Pister, now ninety-three years old, personally saved the Owens pupfish from extinction. It's a pretty long story (and an inspiring one, though the story really isn't over quite yet), and the article is worth reading if you can slip by the New York Times' paywall.
I reference the story because of the last two paragraphs, and particularly the very last paragraph. I am quoting them both, below:
In the world that humans create, the world in which we most immediately live, human beings are "good for everything." We are in charge. In the World of Nature (or the "World that God Created," if you happen to agree with Ross Douthat), we are one kind of living creature, among all the other forms of life, some of which are living inside our bodies, and make our own lives possible.
Here is something to think about, if you can get your head around the idea that the relationship of human beings to Planet Earth is the same relationship that the Owens pupfish have to the limited waters that sustain them in the Owens Valley. If the analogy makes sense (I'm suggesting it does), then here is an important question: Who is going to play "Phil Pister" to our own imminent extinction?
It may just be that the "what good are you?" question has some real poignancy in that context!
(1) - https://www.pinterest.com/pin/163466661453741983/
(2) - https://www.nytimes.com/2021/08/16/science/owens-pupfish-pister.html