There's a growing consensus among scientists that the earth is in the midst of its sixth mass extinction. The results of these calculations and models -- once they arrive in the popular media -- are increasingly positioned as scorecards, offering nature's "winners" and "losers."
The disruption of entire eco-systems is harmful to the people who depend upon them for their economic survival. Poaching in developing countries may temporarily enrich the poachers, but posterity is inevitably impoverished.
Unfortunately for us, earth has experienced at least five mass extinctions during the past 540 million years. Some scientists believe it may be as many as twenty. In other words, mass extinction events are not uncommon.
When South Korean scientists announce, as they did earlier this month, that they hope to clone a Woolly Mammoth, the world listens, but if poachers kill 200 elephants in the African bush, as they did recently in Cameroon, does anyone really care?
A perfect natural laboratory, the Southeast is the world's center of aquatic biodiversity, with more species of freshwater mussels, snails and crayfish than anywhere else on Earth. Unfortunately, it's also been an epicenter of extinction.
Ecuador's government says that if the rest of the world offers just half of what the oil beneath their rainforest is worth -- $3.5 billion -- they will keep the rainforest standing and alive and working for us all.