This video shows environmentalists sitting in the middle of the forest, crying, wailing, and mourning for dead trees. This video has been widely circulated and mocked, and I would be the first to admit these people do seem rather ludicrous.
However I do have something in common with them. When I was in middle school, my parents cut down a little blue spruce that had been part of our yard my entire childhood. I have to admit, I did cry a little. Not as much as a I would have cried over the death of a pet. But the tree was a living thing that had been part of my life, and when it stopped being part of my life, I was sad. I even wrote a poem about it. I guess I am weird.
Now comes the story of WHY my parents cut it down. It was planted too close to our red maple, and (via the regular practice of trees) the red maple was strangling it out. You may not know this, but roots actually WRESTLE with one another below the soil, competing for the best nutrients. The blue spruce was losing the battle-- struggling to grow, dripping with brown needles, and undeniably an eyesore. It's brother spruce, planted at the same time, but beyond the reaches of the ravenous maple, was nearly twice it's height and bushy with masses of resplendent needles.
Here's what all the sentimental hippies conveniently overlook: nature is VICIOUS. If rodents are hungry they will eat their own young. Dolphins practice gang-rape (my life changed permanently for the worse once I knew that horrible fact. I hope I have not blighted your existence by sharing it.) Now their famous permanent smiles always look vaguely sinister to me.
Human being are simply the most vicious in a world of extremely vicious plants and animals. Did you know that when plants first evolved, the oxygen they produced killed off every kind of organism that wasn't a plant? Oxygen was originally a toxic substance, until life evolved to become accustomed to it. Mass extinctions are sad for the creatures dying, but in the long run-- say a few dozen millennia-- they drive growth and change.
Just as life on earth evolved to become accustomed to oxygen, it will evolve to become accustomed to the pervasive human presence. And why not? The raccoons and the crows gleefully benefit from our assorted rubbish. The eagles are adapting to live on skyscrapers. I envision a future where every plant and animal on earth will become our symbiote-- or DIE.
We are the conquering heroes. We are the winners in the race of life. To quote the vampire Spike from the famed TV series, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, "I'm sick of you people. Caesar said, 'I came, I saw, I conquered.' He didn't say, 'I came, I saw, I conquered, I felt bloody bad about it!'"
So goes one side of the argument. Now for the other side. Extinctions may be a positive thing when viewed through the perspective of several dozen millennia. But viewed in the short term, they can be very bad indeed. Human beings evolved to rely on the ecosystems that existed two thousand years ago. If we change those ecosystems beyond all recognition, we will make ourselves less comfortable-- and less happy. Only consider the malaise of the city-dweller who never gets a glimpse of green. And on the brutally practical level, we shouldn't be slaughtering millions of dollars of rainforest biodiversity so we can grow grain to feed those hamburgers. However yummy hamburgers may be, that's just bad management.
So although I do have great compassion for all living things, my chief reason for being an environmentalist is not emotional. I feel that if my own species persists in shooting itself repeatedly in the foot, someone ought to voice at least a feeble protest. We may be the conquering heroes, but we are wantonly slaying all our most loyal subjects-- not exactly prudent behavior for a monarch. Instead of weeping for the cruelty of humankind, those hippies should have been weeping for its stupidity.
Why do people mock them for weeping? In a society built around suppressing emotion, I think we inherently distrust displays of strong emotion. Plus, much of that emotional display was for dramatic effect, which loses them some of our respect. But underneath all the ridiculous posturing, I think there is some sincere emotion worth respecting. When trees die, it IS kind of sad. And that's my final word on the subject.