Sunday, June 11, 2017

Totem As Biodiversity Preservation: A 1990 Letter to E. O. Wilson

Jim Bowery
PO Box 1981
La Jolla, CA 92038

Phone: 619/295-8868

December 5, 1990

Professor E. O. Wilson
Harvard University
MCZ 26 Oxford Street
Cambridge, MA 02138

Dear Professor Wilson,

I listened with some interest to a recent radio program which described the naming of a new species of ant after a friend of yours who discovered a colony residing in her tropical plant.

This set me thinking:

There are enough different species to allow every human family surname to be associated with a its own unique species.

The implications of this are significant when considering the impact of humanity on the destruction of genetic diversity.  Perhaps a greater number of humans would find themselves drawn to protect species with which they or their families identified.  Species and families are, after all, both forms of genetic lineage.  Such altruism toward a single species by humans of a single surname would lead to the protection of habitat.

But more pragmatically, there may be money in this for conservation organizations.  There are many families, particularly as the baby boom matures, where one or more member is obsessed with tracing back family lineages, discovering coats of arms, etc.  Many of these individuals would be over-joyed to pay some fee to an organization like the Nature Conservancy which would not only allow their surname to be given to a species, but which would take that money and spend it on buying control of the habitat in which the species lived.  Secondary markets would involve sending out packages of information on the species to other families with that surname.  This has the beauty of turning genetic diversity directly into cash for the preservation of same.

Of course, any species naming scheme would enjoy much greater legitimacy if it were supported by the scientific community.  That is why I am sending this letter to you.

While I am perfectly happy to donate some of my time to promoting this idea, I possess no authority to do so.  You do.  I suspect with a few phone calls and conversations you could motivate action on this idea.

If you consider it to be worthy of your attention, please let me know of any way I can be of assistance.  If not, please respond so I can pursue other avenues.


Jim Bowery