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Review for International Snow Leopard Trust, Seattle, WA, USA

Rating: 5 stars  

Every life form has a function that—in its own, unique way—is critical to the sustainability of the ecosystem of which it is a part. While I was working in Nepal in the 1966, a helicopter crashed and killed two people.
A helicopter, like an ecosystem, has a great variety of pieces with a wide range of sizes, shapes, and functions. The particular problem here was with the engine, which is held together by many nuts and bolts. Each has a small sideways hole drilled through it so that a tiny “safety wire” can be inserted, with the ends twisted together, to prevent the tremendous vibration created by a running engine from loosening and working a nut off its bolt. The helicopter crashed because a mechanic forgot to replace one tiny safety wire that kept the lateral control assembly together. A nut vibrated off its bolt, the helicopter lost its stability, and the pilot lost control. All this was caused by one missing piece that altered the entire functional dynamics of the aircraft, which in this case is analogous to the mountainous ecosystem wherein the snow leopard lives. The engine had been “simplified” by one piece—a small length of wire.
At that precise moment, which piece—albeit hidden—was the most important part of the helicopter? The point is that each part (compositional diversity) has a corresponding relationship with every other part (structural diversity), and collectively they provide functional sustainability only by working together within the limits of the systemic whole.
In the mountainous ecosystem wherein the snow leopard lives, which species is the most important—possibly the tiny safety wire—with respect to human desires? Is it the marmot that feeds the snow leopard, the domestic cow that feeds the human, the snow leopard that feeds the lammergeyer, the human who kills the snow leopard (to protect a cow or gain a pelt), or the person who works to save the snow leopard from extinction? Should the snow leopard become extinct, how would that alter the ecosystem’s functional sustainability?
Respectfully, Chris Maser, coauthor with Cameron La Follette, of: “Sustainability and the Rights of Nature: An Introduction. 2017. CRC Press, Boca Raton, FL. 418 pp.

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