Letters Voice of the People

When species go extinct, humans should care

According to R. Alexander Pyron in his Monday op-ed “Species die, people. Deal with it,” we shouldn’t worry about whether climate change affects other species; we should only be concerned about how it affects humans. He states that “extinction does not carry moral significance” because it is a natural process that is always occurring.

When my 6-year-old son was playing with a 4-year-old friend, he got frustrated because she wasn’t sharing the ball. I told my son that his friend is working on learning how to share. In a similar way, caring about other species’ existence is a stage in intellectual and moral development. When we are first born, our world is centered on our own needs. As we get older, we learn to care about other kids in the classroom and to treat strangers on the street respectfully. Also, as we mature, we learn to have sympathy toward people who live far away that we only read about.

I look at caring for other species as part of the development of a person from being focused on the self to being aware that other beings have a right to exist and prosper. If I had to choose between saving my son or a squirrel crossing the road, of course I would save my son. However, I also have a moral obligation not to harm other species if I can avoid it because other species also deserve to exist.

The magnitude of the current extinction is on the scale of the one that wiped out the dinosaurs, and that one was caused by an asteroid. The rate of this extinction is not normal or moral.

Sarah Richardson, Ph.D., department of biological sciences, DePaul University

Copyright © 2017, Chicago Tribune
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