“A Big Win for a Little Fish” – a Loss for Human Beings

By | March 20, 2014 | 0 Comments

Delta smelt

Federal judge reduces water supply to Central California farms in order to protect the delta smelt, a two-inch endangered fish. Water restriction severely impacts farming.
News item, 2007

Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals votes 2-1 to uphold water ban.
News item, 2014

The Los Angeles Times lauded the Ninth Circuit’s upholding the water ban, calling it “a big win for a little fish.” The paper glossed over the effects of the ban, including thousands of acres of rich farmland lying fallow, and thousands of farm workers – mainly Latinos – laid off. Yes, the paper is pro-labor and pro-immigration. But when there is a conflict, we see where the Times’ true loyalty lies – it is pro-smelt.

The decision can be appealed to the full Ninth Circuit and perhaps to the Supreme Court. But this first appeal took seven years. By the time our ponderous judicial system rules on further appeals, the formerly productive Central Valley may be a dust bowl with topsoil blowing away, more thousands of farm workers may be unemployed, and food prices may rise further. But that’s not the judges’ problem – their job is to protect fish.

The delta smelt is claimed to be a species of smelt native to the Sacramento River delta in California. I say “claimed” because I remember the northern spotted owl.

Logging was severely curtailed in the Pacific Northwest in the 1990s, when the northern spotted owl was declared a threatened species. We can argue the pros and cons of protecting a threatened species at the cost of a major disruption of the economy of an entire region, with thousands of people losing their jobs.

But the northern spotted owl is a subspecies of spotted owl, not a species. The other subspecies are the California and Mexican spotted owls, with which the northern spotted owl readily interbreeds. The DNA of all three is “almost identical.”

I raise this issue not to critique the mating habits of owls, but to point out that the law in question is titled the “Endangered Species Act,” not the “Endangered Species, Subspecies, and  Every Imaginable Variety Act.” The law was intended to protect rare species from becoming extinct. Surely the legislators did not intend to limit human activities in order to protect every conceivable subspecies and variety of creature.

This issue becomes critical, because years ago, in an attempt to strengthen these tiny fish, the native delta smelt were interbred with wakasagi, which are smelt imported from Japan. I reject the notion that an unelected judge with lifetime tenure should have the power to cause a severe water shortage for tens of thousands of human beings in order to protect a species of fish. But to protect a subspecies of fish that is a hybrid of native smelt and Japanese smelt? Have we lost our minds?

No, we’ve lost our moral compass.

Four firefighters burned to death in a forest fire, while their bosses debated whether to allow water-dropping planes to draw water from a river containing endangered fish. The fish would not become extinct. A few of them might be drawn up by the planes and killed. To avoid the possibility that a few fish might die, four firefighters (two of them young women) burned to death. Those responsible should have been arrested for second-degree murder – “depraved indifference to human life.”

Ironically, this atrocity occurred shortly before 9/11, when 343 FDNY firefighters died. We expect firefighters to risk their lives to protect us, which they do willingly. But at the same time, we refuse to risk the lives of a few fish to save their lives. Ingratitude plus indifference make a toxic mixture. Add lack of knowledge that humans are created in God’s image, and the mixture can become lethal. It already has.

Those who disrupt human activities to preserve endangered species are among the loudest proponents of evolution. But what about survival of the fittest? If a species becomes extinct, isn’t this evolution at work? We are not intentionally killing off the delta smelt, as we almost did the American buffalo. The smelt were already becoming rare. That’s why Japanese smelt were introduced. Aren’t we insulting Darwin’s memory by presuming to meddle with his favorite mechanism?

Fortunately, the Endangered Species Act was not in effect in the past. Otherwise, we might be sharing the streets with saber-toothed cats, cave bears, giant sloths, and the smallpox virus. We are grateful that the majority of extinct species are extinct. For every woolly mammoth that we would like to see, there are hundreds of species we can do without. If we insist on teaching evolution, we should at least take Darwin seriously.


Animals give Nazi salute

Hitler was extremely solicitous of animals. One of his edicts forbade animal experimentation – while experimentation on humans continued. Concern for animals has nothing to do with concern for humans. On the other hand, cruelty to animals is often associated with cruelty to humans. Why this is true I do not know, but it is.

But there is a deeper message here. Once we began equating human and animal life, optimists hoped that we would treat animals better. But pessimists feared that we would treat humans worse. The pessimists were correct.

Peter Singer, professor of “bioethics” at Princeton, teaches that it is permissible to kill malformed or unwanted babies up to a month old, later increased to up to three years old. What’s more, this “expert” compared the moral value of a baby to that of a fish. But we have sunk even lower. We now value fish more than we value humans – just ask the four firefighters. What’s next? Do you really think that our downhill slide has ended? Downhill slides don’t end unless we find something firm to hold onto.

Some of the same people who want to protect fish at all cost also favor open borders. It is easy to predict what will happen if we allow unlimited immigration, while we reduce the water supply. Some “deep” ecologists openly advocate reducing the number of humans on earth. They declare, “The flourishing of human life and cultures is compatible with a substantial decrease of the human population. The flourishing of nonhuman life requires such a decrease.”
Question: Are the Ebola virus and the plague bacillus covered by the Endangered Species Act? No? Why be so “judgmental”? Aren’t you in favor of “biodiversity”? In fact, the head of People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) declared that she hoped foot-and-mouth disease wiped out domestic cattle. How’s that for compassion?

Darwin was quoted by Nazis and other advocates of “eugenics.” In the early 20th century, America was a center of this notion. Here it led to forced sterilization of “defective” women. In Germany there was compulsory euthanasia of malformed children and mentally ill adults, first with drugs and then with gas. This was the physical and psychological precursor to the Holocaust. The Nazis also believed it was necessary to cause “a substantial decrease of the human population.”

No, I’m not saying that we are on the road to another Holocaust. But I am saying that once we lose the belief that all humans are created in God’s image, we begin seeing humans as having value only if they are economically useful to us. I am saying we should be very careful when we see the lives of fish put ahead of the lives of humans. After all, the literal meaning of the word holocaust is “all burned up” – you know, like the four firefighters.

We kicked Judeo-Christian values out of the public square. We thought we had gotten rid of religion. But all we did was exchange it for the secular religions of leftism and radical environmentalism. We rejected ethical rules. We thought we had gotten rid of people who told us how to live our lives. But all we did was subject ourselves to people who didn’t care if we lived at all. We trashed the early symbol of Christianity. We thought we had gotten rid of the fish. But all we did was swap it for the delta smelt.


dstol@prodigy.net. You are welcome to publish or post these articles, provided that you cite the author and website.


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