The troglobite will soon be a common mining word, or at least a swear word. Rio Tinto is seeking to expand iron ore mining near Pannawonica in the Pilbara region of Western Australia. They want to develop a new mine to replace the existing mine that will be worked out in the next decade or so. At the site of the new mine they have found troglobites. These are described as four millimeter subterranean creatures related to spiders. Apparently if this new mine does not go ahead, they local town will have to be deserted. So here we have to decide between:
- Extinction of a species
- Extinction of a town (should I call it a community or culture?).
How do we decide between destroying a town and destroying a species? Maybe we could ask the politicians:
- A Labor backbencher said the economic and social benefits of the Rio Tinto project were more important than saving species (she will remain a backbencher is my guess.)
- The opposition environment spokesman said that Rio Tinto should explore the surround 1,000 square miles, for he believes they will find lots more of the critters (ever hopeful—a good characteristic for the opposition.)
- The Premier said he had not been fully briefed (what else could he say?)
Maybe we should obey the law: don’t proceed with the mine and save the endangered species. But first consult a lawyer for whom law is elastic, not static. I am sure a good lawyer can prove an exception, find a loophole, or concoct a way around the situation. At the best/worst they can get the law changed. I read that Rio Tinto will appeal to a minister who can override the local EPA by taking social considerations into account. Seems they have done this before when rare parrots got in the way of a project.
Maybe we should consult the philosophers. Ask those who are loudest about sustainable development. Do we sustain the species or the town? Socrates would quail at that one. Does man take precedence over blind critters deep in the soil? Religion cannot even deal with that, I bet.
I consulted the bloggers. Here are two originals:
- YANK IN LONDON says: …if God had wanted this animal to survive She wouldn’t have hid them so close to iron ore.
- OBSCENE DESSERTS says: Not as cute as Knut, but formidable as all get out. Hail the might troglobite, which, despite being blind and a mere four millimeters long, has the power to stop a billion-dollar mining project in its tracks.
Maybe I will just head off for the weekend, join friends over many bottles of wine, and debate this. Maybe I will have a decent answer on Monday. Stay tuned, and help out by posting your perspective below.