If I had to choose between saving the life of a good dog or a bad man, the man would die, and the same would be true if I had to choose between the endangered mountain gorilla and all 37-million humans of metropolitan Tokyo.
“You don’t know anyone in Tokyo, and might not racism play into how breezily you would render them dead? What would you say if you had to choose between a species of blind fish that only lives in a single isolated cave versus yourself and the 4-million other humans in Oregon?”
Whether my decision involved Tokyo or Oregon, it would be based upon my belief that the value of an entire species outweighs that of millions of humans. It is also true that cave fish only harm their prey whereas we humans harm everything but the germs, rodents, and insects that prey on us, and so it is that the earth would be better off if several million of us were suddenly dead.
“How many humans would you trade for the Anopheles Mosquito, the Norway Rat, or a staph-causing bacteria?”
While it’s hard to imagine the harm of killing-off a flesh-eating microbe, destroying the Anopheles Mosquito is another matter because of the species that feed upon them and are themselves fed upon by other species. Even so, if I were a caribou whose breathing passages were being clogged by clouds of mosquitoes, my choice would be easy. My point is that immediate suffering could inspire me to adopt a remedy that would make the overall problem worse, yet the absence of immediate suffering gives my species an excuse for rationalizing problems out of existence; for example, greed, global warming and habitat destruction.
As I see it, my species relates to the earth like staph germs relate to their host. What I mean to say is that while staph germs might become fat and sassy from feasting on human flesh today, it never occurs to them to cut back in order to keep their host alive for tomorrow, although when it dies, they die. How, then, are we superior to staph? Given our wasted potential for good, how are we even the moral equals of staph?
Irrelevant Endnote: Peggy is sitting beside me (on her own desktop computer) with Harvey purring loudly in her lap. A new universe was born when he entered the world, its reality being so all-encompassing that I can scarcely remember the old universe despite the fact that it occupied 69/70ths of my life. We came very near not applying to keep Harvey (for many months, we had been his foster parents), and when we finally did apply, we came very near being forced to give him up due to our age (I’m 70, and Peggy—the poor old thing—is 69). How nightmarish the image of being forced to surrender him to the young woman who wanted him, and how unimaginable the possibility of someday losing him to death (his or ours). What would I not give for him? How much trouble, how much money, even how many lives? Some people love humans. I love cats. The five that I have aren’t nearly enough, but if I had more, I would be spread too thin for intimacy (a recognition that causes me to question the values of cat-laden households).
It is said that the Abrahamic deity created humans in his likeness (as if that’s a good thing), but I’m much more invested in the beautiful and virtuous cat goddess, Bastet, who so admired cats that she molded herself in their likeness. I have a statue of Bastet on the window shelf overlooking my bed, and I often open my eyes in the wee hours to see her outlined against the semi-darkness of the city sky.