Thursday, May 6, 2010

Communicating For Results: Citing the Mona Lisa, or David, When Justifying the Preservation of an Endangered Bird or Animal Species

“The monarch has the most fantastic migration of any insect in the world,” says Lincoln Brower, the world’s leading expert on that butterfly. So, last month, in a CBS “Sunday Morning” segment about the rapid decline in the monarch’s population (being caused by massive illegal logging within “protected zones” in Mexico), when he was asked how the world would be different without this phenomenal migration, Brower responded: “My answer to that is: What good is the Mona Lisa? What good is Mozart’s music? We could live without it, but we would be diminished as a culture and as a people. There’s nothing like it. It’s unique.”

The moment I heard Brower’s reply, I realized that his is an unusually compelling and effective response to anyone challenging wildlife preservation. In the past, whenever someone has asked me why I care so passionately about conserving wildlife, I have tended to wax eloquent on the morality issue, saying that other animals have the same basic right to exist as does homo sapiens. Of course, this argument does not appeal to many, especially those who take a more egocentric view of man. Well, in future, when talking about the need to save, say, the ocelot and the red wolf--two North American animals that are fast becoming extinct--I will simply resort to the analogy used by Brower, citing things like the Mona Lisa, the Sphinx, and Michelangelo’s David, to make my point.

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