Julie Fox Gorte

Senior Vice President for Sustainable Investing Pax World Management

Most people probably will never go all misty-eyed over the fate of the Furbish lousewort, but we shouldn’t have to rely on any species’ charisma in order to assure that it can continue to live.

It is sometimes easy to forget that no matter how much our lives depend on commerce and finance, in the end all of that depends, in turn, on the health of our planet.  We are fond of the notion that human ingenuity can overcome all our challenges, but that’s a proposition that we never really want to test, at least with respect to Earth’s carrying capacity. I’d just as soon never find out if human ingenuity is up to the challenge of dealing with an Earth that can’t support an abundance of life.

The Endangered Species Act put a canary in the mine of human existence.   It is commonplace for people to think, as they convert natural habitat to some sort of productive capacity, that it’s okay.  After all, there’s more of that somewhere else, and someone else will make sure that the species that need it will just find some other place.  The Endangered Species Act is a reminder that that’s not always the case. Sometimes our activities cross the line between sharing the planet and hogging it.

Most people probably will never go all misty-eyed over the fate of the Furbish lousewort, but we shouldn’t have to rely on any species’ charisma in order to assure that it can continue to live.  Communities of place and interest often need, and too often do not have, hard stops that limit their ability to transform their surroundings.  The human race has repeatedly shown, over its history, that we do not innately recognize when we’re approaching one, or crossing a threshold we can never recross. I rely on the Endangered Species Act in my day job, and in the rest of my life, to maintain those limits.