Updates June - July 2000
The article Nile virus not a concern yet Health officials remain vigilant, however, after infected bird is found near Syracuse (July 30, 2000) DEMOCRAT AND CHRONICLE makes me wonder if our major newspaper and even our public health officials understand environmental concerns in such a sense that the word means anything. The Western Nile Virus carried by mosquitoes and infecting birds, and then infecting people is mosquito-borne infection that can cause encephalitis. Because at this moment the Western Nile virus has been found in a dead crow in Syracuse and not been found in Rochester yet, there is no reason for concern touts our most prominent media and our health officials-though they do suggest that we remain vigilant.
So, just what does the word 'concern' mean in relation to environmental problems? We are now concerned about several invasive species, the Zebra Mussel and the purple Loosestrife for example, because the first has infiltrated our waters and the latter our roadsides and wetlands. Both are so entrenched and persistent that our local environment has been deeply infected by them, as they have pushed out indigenous species and are without natural enemies to control their spread. When should we have been concerned about these environmental pests? When we found the first mussel in a nearby lake, or a plant on the side of a nearby road? That wouldn't make any sense.
By the time the Zebra Mussel and Purple Loosestrife showed up here it was far too late to prevent their disastrous effect on our environment. It is because their appearance means that a single instance of them is in reality a sustainable community of them-a steady march of an army that has been able to live off the land and arrive in such numbers as to survive the destruction of thousand of individuals. This is the way it is with most, if not all, potential environmental disrupters: By the time environmental problems reach our local environment, they have come in such large numbers and become so much a part of our environment that it is impossible for us to irradiate them. Somehow, despite all evidence to the contrary, we have deluded ourselves into believing that environmental problems are like other problems we can solve with a gun or with legislation.
If we had meant to prevent the spread of the Western Nile Virus into our area, we should have been a part of any effort to stop it when it first showed up anywhere. Given the rapid transport of any disease by how small our planet has been made by air travel and other relatively quick modes of conveyance, we cannot wait to be concerned about environmental problems until they show up at our door. Environmental problems like disease and global warming and pollution and invasive species do not come alone, they come in enough strength to survive our meager attempts to deal with them.
Could the Democrat and Chronicle be more dismissive than its description of the Green Party ("The group that brought us actor Grandpa Al Lewis from the TV series The Munsters as a gubernatorial candidate in 1998") last Sunday? I do not recall Rochester’s monopolistic print media description of the Reagan years as that administration which brought us Bedtime For Bonzo.
As the article in question was about one of the "unconventional" choices on the Green Party’s primary ballot in September, there was no need for this senseless snipe— just the ugly spectacle of the D&C muscleman kicking sand in the face of an alternative voice. The Green Party in New York, and in other states and countries, has long fought hard for the civil rights of the poor and preserving the health of our environment.
The Democrat and Chronicle should have learned by now that there is a difference between reporting and editorializing: the first is to write about or provide an account or a summation for publication or broadcast. The second is an article in a publication expressing the opinion of its editors or publishers. Irresponsible reporting is when a major publication intentionally blurs the distinction between the two.
So, despite a few instances in which the people were allowed to speak publicly about the expansion of the Seneca Zoo into Seneca Park, it looks like Rochester is going to get a great big zoo. Monroe County Executive Jack Doyle, according to the Democrat and Chronicle, said "…major expansion of the Seneca Park Zoo that would triple the size of the facility to 36 acres, fundamentally change the way animals are exhibited there and alter the nature of the surrounding park."
We probably did not have much chance of tossing reason into the ring, those of us not particularly thrilled with destroying one natural habitat for the sake of perpetuating the illusion of another. For zoos are not what they seem to appear to most: They are not the preservation of endangered species like a tiger any more than hanging a picture of your grandfather over the fireplace is having your grandfather with you. A tiger, the dominant species in his habitat, is not only the product of his habitat but the biological definition of it too.
The Sierra Club says, "Probably the most important reason for saving the wild tiger - being at the top of food chain, her survival means the survival of all other species that live in her habitat and preserving the complex relationships within an ecosystem that was created by Nature and that can not be recreated by man." Remove the tiger from his habitat and his habitat is no more. It is something else, something that is no longer structured by a beast that becomes by its existence an integral part of the biological mechanism that shapes what his habitat is. Animal and plant life in their habitat change when tigers are removed.
So, Rochesterians, nor any community, are not doing the environment any great favor by creating zoos, no matter how well designed and happy the residents appear because ultimately it isn’t the animals we are trying to save, it is ourselves. The destruction of natural habitats, which the expansion of the Seneca Zoo accomplishes (mostly for a parking lot), is the real threat to our existence and zoos are merely glittering showcases for doomed animals whose presence has been, long before our walk on to the stage, the architects of the environment that now keeps us alive. Rochester needs a world class zoo like a fish needs a bicycle.