Harriett Crosby

Nature lover, adventurer, mountain climber, environmental activist and Jungian

Here on this 40th anniversary of the Endangered Species Act, we’ve got to celebrate the deep and abiding respect that we, the American people, have for the biological diversity of the natural world. It’s beyond politics and cultural differences; it’s a fundamental awareness that we are a part of nature and not apart from nature—that we are embedded in the intricate web of life all around this tiny planet earth.

As we grapple with these dangers, what we need most is some kind of ethical compass to guide us through the technological application of modern science. Thankfully, the Endangered Species Act will provide the North Star of such a compass.

And it is not just the big, charismatic animals that are endangered, it’s also the little ones, insects and bees that pollinate our food and flowering plants, and the microscopic organisms in the soil that are indispensable to the whole interdependent living ecosystem that makes life thrive.

The greatest threats to these small creatures are all the chemical poisons, pesticides, herbicides, and fertilizers of industrial agriculture that are invisibly killing the rich life of the earth’s soil. And the genetically engineered crops, designed to tolerate more poisons, that are changing the basic building blocks of life—the DNA and RNA of wild plants—in unpredictable ways. All these advances of biotechnology are built on the assumption that human genius, in harnessing science and technology, can do evolution better than nature can. We may need new laws to reign in human arrogance.

As we grapple with these dangers, what we need most is some kind of ethical compass to guide us through the technological application of modern science. Thankfully, the Endangered Species Act will provide the North Star of such a compass. The strongest and most powerful aspect of the Endangered Species Act is that it is more than just a wildlife protection statute; it is a moral law. Forty years ago, the legislators of a great nation gathered together and said that we, the American people, will not permit any of the living species of plants and animals who share this country with us, to go extinct. This is the North Star that we need to go forward.