1. The world's best reading app

    Great articles, no ads. Get started for free.

    You must read the article before you can post or reply.
    • jeff
      ScoutScribe
      3 months ago

      Many people love plants. They will tenderly care for them, encourage flowering or fruit, take an interest in the bark and leaves on a trail. A scientist may devote a lifetime to studying a single species. But to Fraga, these acts of appreciation, while welcome, are rooted in selfishness, not service.

      I feel like Fraga is kind of making the case for selfishness here. At least if the alternative is dogmatism I know which one I'd prefer. We need to build our way to a future of cleaner energy. I could understand making the case for the buckwheat if this was going to be a coal mine, but it's not, and this is where I believe the need for nuance and compromise comes in.

      I loved the article and appreciate the work that scientists do in cataloguing and researching these kinds of rare species but I can not get behind the idea that every one should be protected simply because it is unique.

    • Jessica4 months ago

      Wow, this was a riveting read.

      This is ridiculous to me, but it also makes sense:

      In the whole history of this plant, only the mine had stepped in to fund substantial studies and protect it.

      And besides, the mine would produce an element necessary to mitigate climate change—a misfortune that will eventually wreak havoc on all plants, on this ridge and everywhere else.

      I really admire Fraga's determination and dedication. I feel like there's a societal tendency to innovate rather than protect what exists. Innovation is critical, though I find that it often takes us to a mental space that can sometimes be far away from the current reality. This may be an unpopular opinion: I think it's incredibly creative, imaginative, and inspiring that we can even think about colonizing Mars and exploring other galaxies; however, amid the talk of life beyond Earth, it seems that we forget how much this planet has endured to be able to miraculously allow for life as it is.

      Certain arguments for the plant may be emotional or reverent. But perhaps our rush for lithium is also emotional and prevents us from thinking on a longer time scale. “Rhyolite Ridge is not the only great hope for lithium,” she says. Perhaps we could wait a little longer for our domestic lithium, maybe pay a little more in the interim, work out the compromises that are required to mine in other places. Naysayers might point to the damage brought about by a warming climate and say Tiehm’s buckwheat is a doomed species no matter what. Better to sacrifice it now for the greater good of alternative energy. Fraga disagrees. The buckwheat clearly needs help, but it can hardly be written off as a goner. The mine is a death sentence to a species that could live on, evolve, contribute in ways that we have not had the time to comprehend.  As she sees it, protecting this plant is a service to our future, both for ourselves and for other species.

      • KapteinB
        Top reader this weekScoutScribe
        3 months ago

        Great read!

        This article raises an interesting question about the value of a species. In general, I want to protect every living species, even those like this buckwheat, which doesn't appear to be all that important for any wider ecosystem, nor of much commercial use. But we need lithium. Mining this deposit is almost guaranteed to make this one plant extinct, but it could help prevent the extinction of thousands of other species all around the world. And then there's the Endangered Species Act.

        The Endangered Species Act was passed in 1973 on a nearly unanimous vote that reflected a collective awakening to the accelerating crisis of extinction. This was quickly challenged when an endangered fish called the snail darter got in the way of the partially built Tillicoe Dam, in Tennessee. In 1978, the Supreme Court ruled for the fish and affirmed the intent of the law: to protect species at “whatever the cost.”

        Well, that settles it, doesn't it? The deposit can't be mined, unless they're able to make the plant grow somewhere else (or it's discovered growing somewhere else), or the law is changed.

        I think it's incredibly creative, imaginative, and inspiring that we can even think about colonizing Mars and exploring other galaxies; however, amid the talk of life beyond Earth, it seems that we forget how much this planet has endured to be able to miraculously allow for life as it is.

        I see an analogue between this plant's inability to grow anywhere else, and humanity's inability to live anywhere else. One of the most popular arguments for settling Mars is that it would ensure humanity's survival in the case of an extinction-level catastrophe on Earth (such as an asteroid impact, supervolcano eruption, nuclear war, etc). That all depends on the Mars colony being self-sufficient, which is in no way a given. Yeah, we definitely need to take better care of our home planet.

        • Jessica3 months ago

          I see an analogue between this plant's inability to grow anywhere else, and humanity's inability to live anywhere else.

          KapteinB, I really appreciate this comment and particularly love this line. Thanks for sharing your perspective.