Wednesday, February 12, 2020

Haley Reading Group: "Tragedy of the Common"

[The Best American Science and Nature Writing (2018)]

J. B. Mackinnon’s “Tragedy of the Common” discusses how White-Rumped Vultures became an endangered species. He follows biologist Vibhu Prakash as he works to highlight to major cause in the White-Rumped Vulture’s decrease of at least 58% around 1997.

Mackinnon states that the veterinary drug diclofenac was the culprit in vulture’s demise. According to him, the drug was “persisting in livestock carcasses and poisoning vultures after so much as a single exposure” (115). Despite being banned, the drug is still illegally used and harming both the vultures and other agriculturists who rely on the vultures to eat rotting carcasses to keep diseases from spreading.

How did reading about the circumstances of the vultures alter or support your thinking in one notable way?

47 comments:

LaTrina Brown said...

Reading about the circumstances of the vultures altered my thinking in a way because it made me wonder what would life be like if the vultures weren't extinct? According to the passage, the absence of vultures led to the bubonic plague (Mackinnon 122). Whether a species is common or rare, it still plays a major role in the food chain and ecosystem. The elimination of vultures could have prevented the plague or not, but we will never know.



































Mackenzie Cohoon said...

reading about the vultures made me realize that nothing should be taken for granted. Even the most common occurrence in nature can disappear before we really realize the impact that they had on us. The saying is that you don't realize what you have until it's gone, but even after hearing that so many times you forget that its true until its too late; "everything ends up rare" (119).

-Mackenzie Cohoon

Unknown said...

After reading, "Tragedy of the Common" it has not changed my opinion on the selfishness of humans. Most Indian citizens were so afraid of the vultures, they sought to reduce the vulture population. The vultures were important to the ecosystem and prevented diseases from spreading , but they didn't view them as beneficial.

Madalynn M.

Unknown said...

After reading, "Tragedy of the Common" it has not changed my opinion on the selfishness of humans. Most Indian citizens were so afraid of the vultures, they sought to reduce the vulture population. The vultures were important to the ecosystem and prevented diseases from spreading , but they didn't view them as beneficial.

Madalynn M.

Samontriona P. said...

This reading about the circumstances of the vultures support my thinking in a notable way. The article states, "The white-rumped vulture die off has now reached 99.9 percent"(115). Before reading this I did not know much about this critically endangered bird, but I did know that many animals were endangered because of the effects humans have on altering nature. We are endangering species because we do not like the way things are happening in nature and that is a problem. The balance of nature is being compromised because we believe it benefits us and that is not the way nature works. Before altering things for our benefit alone, we should take a look at how that would effect the balance of nature as a whole.

Thomas Siganga said...

This reading of the "Tragedy of the Commons" was interesting, but nothing new in my eyes. People always will put their own interests before others, usually missing how things will affect the bigger picture. Not only has this happened with vultures as this story described, but it has also happened to other animals in different ecosystems even for things as trivial as just good tasting food. Overall, it was a good read, but the concepts did not bring anything new to my perceptions of humans.

-Thomas Siganga

Anonymous said...

After reading this article I started to think about how human and nonhumans could learn to live together. On page 119 it states, " Society has not yet answered the question of how much of the landscape ought to be shared with the nonhuman world." I believe that although, humans may be afraid of animals they have to understand that they are just as much as important that we are. However, with the case that they most common animals were becoming rare, human may already think the animals have enough space, so killing a few here and killing a few there would not hurt. The line has to be drawn, so everyone knows that those few here and there adds up over time making them become rare.

Alexis H.

Caleb Abernathy said...

Reading about the circumstances of the vultures supported my thinking in a notable way. I had a general assumption that there were some sort of agencies or corporations that played a factor, but not to the degree that the passage described. "Industrial agricultural carries much of the blame for Europe's disappearing birds. They've been taking out hedgerows, taking out trees, making fields bigger, increasing inputs of insecticide, pesticides -- just essentially squeezing out the opportunities for wild organisms to live in those kinds of environments -- we're taking massive losses."

The degree to which companies can impact an entire species really poses the notion that something needs to be done or instances like these are going to keep occurring.

Anonymous said...

What surprised me about this passage was the end, where it said, "Why does it matter what happens to common species? Because we happen to be one of them". This really gave me something to think about. Human beings are innately selfish. While we might not care about what happens to other animals, we do care what happens to us. Unfortunately, we may realize too late that what is happening to other animals could also happen to us. Hopefully, articles like these will help us to come to that conclusion so we can make necessary changes.

Marina T.

Samantha A. said...

The circumstances with the vultures shows the impact humans have on animals and supports how animals are negatively affected by society's selfishness. Animals should not be "human-adapted" and continue to decrease in population because most people don't respect the lives of animals as much as they should. We care more about our own society and the parts of the environment that benefits us like using animals bones as fertilizer to grow crops.

Samantha A.

Youssef H said...

As I was reading "The tragedy of the Common" I was already aware of most of the ideas being mentioned. Especially when the article mentioned "Widespread and abundant species are often looked at as resources". I like how more detail was brought on to the fact that most people, even me, overlook the importance of common animals. I found it interesting that there was one case where this idea went so far that, rare species were starting to be as populated as common species.

Alexis S. said...

After reading the passage, "Tragedy of the Common", it has supported my thinking in that humans need to be more environmentally conscious. The author continuously highlighted and reiterated the point of, "everything end[ing] up rare" and if humans continue to harm the environment then many species will continue to become rare or extinct. Many species are important in our environment and need to continue to be protected.

- Alexis S.

Jordan R. said...

The "Tragedy of the Common" made me realize how important it is for companies to do better testing and experimentation on drugs that are passed, then allowed to be sold to the public. If the benefits and downfalls of diclofenac were weighed before it was released and utilized by the public, maybe the problem of decreasing White-Rumped Vulture populations would not exist. This passage makes me question how easy it is for certain drugs to be passed, and if the disadvantages outweigh the benefits.

Michael Dade said...

What the "Tragedy of the Common" made me think about was how harmful illicit drugs really can be. It's a shame that the use of these drugs on these innocent animals persists in the first place, and it's even more worrisome to know that the ones they're using aren't even FDA approved and are just flat-out illegal. It makes you think, if vultures are succumbing to the effects of such drugs from devouring the rotten carcasses, how might we be effected as we continue to consume the same livestock that could be exposed to similar drugs too?

Kyla Tinsley said...

This reading reinforced my thoughts about the harm humans inflict on wildlife with no regard for the consequences of their actions. Many extinct and endangered animals today are that way because of human interference, whether that be outright killing them or indirectly harming their environment and/or food supply. Humans view "common" animals as animals that cannot be affected by anything humans do to their environment. If this keeps up, then, as the reading says, "everything ends up rare (119)", and it will certainly be the fault of humans when the entire ecosystem falls apart.

-Kyla T.

Kelsey McNeil said...

Something that this article made me think about was the fact that as humans we rely so much on other animals and what they do that we don't even realize it. Before the vultures started going extinct people were always afraid of them despite them eating the carcasses and things of dead unwanted animals. It seems like a situation in which we take things for granted as well as the disappointing fact that we are the reason so many species are disappearing. One sad quote that stood out to me was "...many Indians under the age of 25 - roughly half the population - don't believe him when he described the birds' recent omnipresence" (115). That stood out to me because it makes me think of all of the animals that we have now that are so close to extinction and the fact that when my generation has kids they might not know what animals, such as a polar bear, are.

Kelsey McNeil

Linda H. said...

Before reading this article I did not realize how numerous vultures could be. I am used to seeing one lone vulture on TV and other media. However on page 114 the passage states that in Delhi India "they averaged 8 per square mile". I also didn't think of how beneficial vultures could be to humans. This passage also says that "local villagers, who relied on vultures to keep rotting livestock carcasses from spreading disease...".

Linda H.

Kenisha Townsend said...

Reading about the vultures altered my thinking in the same way as it did scientists studying the vultures. The idea that a common species may need protection as much as the rare ones do is not something you will think to consider. However, it makes sense, especially if there are factors present that have the potential to alter the abundance of the species in years to come.It is essentially a form of "thinking ahead".

Anonymous said...

Reading about the vultures further my thoughts on how much as humans we have negatively impacted the life of wild animals. Page 117 on this articles only furthers that concept " To only focus on that final moment of total extinction, however to downplay the breadth of the extinction crisis." This shows how big of problem this is.

Alliyah M. said...

One way the article showed me a new perspective on animal conservation was the idea "that common species may need protection just as much as rare ones do"(115). Before reading this article, I would not have considered worrying about the possibility of extinction for common animals since their populations are usually high and should instead keep most of our focus towards endangered species. However, the article showed how quickly a common specie can easily be wiped out within months and therefore, we should treat common animals the same as endangered ones.

Ivyanne B. said...

After reading this article it really opened my eyes about how we take the world for granted. We see common animals and think nothing of them even though they are going extinct before our very eyes. "A far more frequent occurrence is extirpation or local extinction" Pg. 117. We aren't taking care of the animals in our surroundings and we will soon find out that its gonna do us harm. It really shows how we need to take action and be more cautious about other species on this planet besides ourselves.
-Ivyanne B.

Jasmin Smoot said...

The article had not swayed any initial thoughts that I already have. Human behavior has always negatively impacted wildlife and the environment. Whenever action is taken, it is always too late. Even when it comes to the well-being of humankind, we are not doing all that we can to protect ourselves. I am not surpised that efforts to protect the living have not been proactive, rather reactive, throughout history.

Jasmin Smoot said...

The article had not swayed any initial thoughts that I already have. Human behavior has always negatively impacted wildlife and the environment. Whenever action is taken, it is always too late. Even when it comes to the well-being of humankind, we are not doing all that we can to protect ourselves. I am not surpised that efforts to protect the living have not been proactive, rather reactive, throughout history.

KaelynB said...

This altered my way of thinking in a way that I was not prepared for. Of course we learn about these things and we have to take it in and maybe take tests and quizzes over it, however one may not actually think about the implications of it. To keep it short, on page 123, they talk about how one can just look the other way and assume we will get over it. And sure, all species adapt to all sorts of things, but the extinction of such an important animal has caused such hardships in many parts of the world. Sure we adapted, but we should not have had to because of selfish wants.

Zuriah Harkins said...

Reading about the vultures altered my thinking by making me realize that every living thing plays some kind of role in our environment. Before reading the article, I had no idea that vultures were so essential in preventing the spread of diseases. I also now understand the importance of conserving even the most common species, since the majority of endangered species are initially very common.

Zuriah H.

Brandy Collier said...

After reading "Tragedy of the Common", it made me think more about how so many drugs that are dangerous are being approved and why are the guidelines more strict or why these drugs aren't tested as thorough as they should be. I also thought about how humans can live in their own world without thinking of the animals that support their world and help make it what it is.

-Brandy Collier

Anonymous said...

The reading got me think about how human can be veil and selfish when it comes to nature. McKinnon said when you lose the commonness of a common species, the consequences are immediate and undeniable (122). When we think about cutting trees and exterminating some species from the planet, we barely ask ourselves why they are important. When I was a younger, I use to kill insects because I did not know why they really existed. After a whole year of learning botanic, I understood how insects are important to the development of certain plants. The ecosystem is a whole beautiful world that needs to be cared about and respected.

Geonel M.

Dasmin W. said...

The article," Tragedy of the Common ", has confirmed my way of thinking about the ecosystem and the ways the world "tries" to fix it. Some of the ways that the United States tries to help endangered species is with the Endangered Species Act and eliminating drugs like diclofenac that are harmful for animals. The thing is though is these solutions are not working and as a result, species are dying because people are doing whatever they want to do and policies are not enforced. Overall, it has negatively affect on our ecosystem.

Brandon Nichols said...

This just reintroduces the fact that humanity is yet again the destroyer of nature. These vultures were following their natural instinct and maintaining a symbiotic relationship with the humans. To give humans the benefit of the doubt, we did not know that this chemical would end up killing the birds (which is more than likely why it was banned), but it's just unfortunate how things turned out. Hopefully the birds will go back to their original numbers and flourish. Only time will tell.

Brandon N

Isaiah J said...

For me, this article brought to light the apathy of humans. When Mackinnon mentioned the collective shrug of humanity, and how we assume that we will adapt, it got me thinking. For as many people are willing to help, there are more who assume that others will take care of the big problems, or that these problems will not effect them. I personally am guilty of having this mindset, but thinking like this can cause our world to suffer.

Isaiah J

Zaria Whitlock said...

Too often we squander the majestic nature of the creatures whose land we have inhibited and caused drastic change to their livelihood. This article reminded me to not take for granted the species which we consider ordinary or common. Mackinnon addresses the lack of research done on species considered common, “commonness was not a well-studied phenomenon, and that ‘many common species are as poorly studied as many rare ones’” (Mackinnon 16). Without doing empirical research on the existence of all species we do not have a realistic image of how our daily interactions may be negatively affecting and further harming not just endangered species but also those common specimens. This is a potentially harmful fact because if we only focus on endangered species we may continue acting in ways that lead to those common species downturn and eventually several common species will become endangered. The importance of the existence of common species is that their commonness has been established by their importance in their ecosystems; these common species “influence and engineer their surroundings” (122). The decreased population of these common species will only lead to other species within those ecosystems becoming harmed as species they depend upon for food or other things begin to slowly disappear. This reading helped support my understanding of the importance of each species that exists; regardless of our knowledge of animals they are serve a necessary role in their individual ecosystems. We must do our job to protect these animals since we are the main cause regarding the danger they face.
-Zaria W.

Cheniya A. said...

The reading impacted my way of thinking in the way that I wonder what is happening in the world that I don't have to pay attention to? And how does this trickle down into my life? Mackinnon wrote, "The white-rumped vulture die off has now reached 99.9 percent"(115). I know now that agriculturists depend on vultures to eat carcasses and prevent the spread of disease. Now that they're gone, they can't do that anymore. This makes me wonder about how consumers consume meat. It also reminds me of the swine flu and how widespread it had become.

Anonymous said...

We seem to rarely think about other species when it comes to what may harm them. What we refuse to test on humans we test on animals. We assume that because they cannot speak the same language as us we are more intelligent. That is not always the case.
Breann w.

Anonymous said...

This article was very interesting to me, because it goes to show how one change, that can be caused by humans, can impact an entire ecosystem, or at least, the survival of a species. By introducing different types of chemicals to help a population, it could also damage another. Many argue humans play too far of a role in causing changes in nature.

-Devin Ellis-Martin

Adejoke Adanri said...

One section of the reading that really stood out to me was on page 114 paragraph 5 which stated, “”I saw the dead vultures almost everywhere," he said… Local villagers, who relied on vultures to keep rotting livestock carcasses from spreading disease and sold the cleaned bones to be ground into fertilizer, confirmed that there were far fewer of the birds around. … (Prakash learned their was) a 90 percent decrease in vultures nationwide.” When you think out how many animals humans kill or interfere with for an entire population to become extinct or endangered, its sad because thats such a large number! We have to be more environmentally cautious so we aren’t endangering so many populations, especially those that help us.

Crystal R. said...

The article supported my idea because I have always thought that we have failed and are still failing those species who have became extinct and those that are on the verge of becoming extinct. The article says, "That species of such incredible abundance can decline as quickly as the white-rumped vulture did points to a counterintuitive idea in conservation: that common species may need protection just as much as rare ones do," (115). This validates exactly what I thought before reading the article. Any species can become extinct if we are not protecting them properly, whether they be common or not.

Crystal R.

Crystal R. said...

The article supported my idea because I have always thought that we have failed and are still failing those species who have became extinct and those that are on the verge of becoming extinct. The article says, "That species of such incredible abundance can decline as quickly as the white-rumped vulture did points to a counterintuitive idea in conservation: that common species may need protection just as much as rare ones do," (115). This validates exactly what I thought before reading the article. Any species can become extinct if we are not protecting them properly, whether they be common or not.

Crystal R.

Jayla Pierce said...

Reading this article altered my thinking by having me realize how important wildlife is and the contributions they give. The quote, “the inevitable place you end up,” said Gaston,”is that everything is rare” (116). When trying to protect the wildlife we only think about the endangered, which is good, but in doing so you also forget the common wildlife in the process. It is important to recognize and appreciate all wildlife and the importance they have.

Phoenix Johnson said...

When I began reading, I was honestly confused on how cultures were a topic in this book. Vultures are the last thing on my mind when thinking of animals involved in the food chain. This passage made me appreciate vultures more. There digestive system and genetic make up helps them eat dad animals with out harm. This stops animal disease from spreading to other animals. When they start poisoning vultures, without intention, they died off. Surprisingly, vultures decrease is one of the reasons the bubonic plague was caused because vultures weren't around to eat the cattle dying from heatwave. Instead rats were there to clean up carrying the disease. This passage shows you how a small change in the food chain can cause pandemics.

unknown said...

Everything, no matter how big or small, has its contributions to the circle of life. The vultures may have seemed like intimidatingly-abundant pests but they play a role in the food chain, just as things of smaller numbers. This just shows us that we need to allocate time and resources for all things and not just the "rare finds".

-Ronald Allen

Miles Wadlington said...

In reading "Tragedy of the Common" from Pacific standard I realize that everything needs protection. I related the scarcity of once common birds back to Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs. After the physiological needs are met, people need safety more than anything. For years ecologists have been fighting to provide safety for the rarest species of animals, but according to Kevin Gaston we've missed protecting the common populations until they become rare. Learning that Europe's bird population "has dropped by 421 million" in 34 years confirms that it is our responsibility as humans who have dominion over all the animals, to protect them. All of them.

Jasmyn Kloster said...

After reading J. B. Mackinnon’s “Tragedy of the Common”, I did not feel like my view of humans was altered all that much. Even with the legal change in the availability of the drug people still continued to use it for their benefit. People are selfish in the fact that if they can not see the damages they are causing, they will not stop the behavior. Even if they see the damages, if it does not directly affect them they will still most likely not stop the behavior. Not only is it a tragedy the vulture population fell at such an alarming rate, there were other negative outcomes that arose when the population began to dwindle as well. People do not tend to think about the consequences their actions can have on the environment and species around them.
-Jasmyn Kloster

Justin Jubert said...

Reading about the vultures did not change my views or surprise me because human beings conflate capital and profits with the value of life. The passage notes that industrial agriculture carries much of the blame for Europe's disappearing birds by taking out hedgerows, trees, and making fields bigger (116). The detrimental effects of greed and profit-seeking harm human lives as well as animal lives. For example, the United States and various defense contractors make billions of dollars from producing and selling weapons that are used to kill civilians, including multitudes of innocent children, in the Middle East.

Anonymous said...

This reading did not alter my beliefs, because I am already aware of the destruction that humans cause other species on earth. Usually when we take action, it is too late or for selfish reasons. What needs to be realized is that Vultures are apart of the food web, so the loss of vultures could cause a cascade of events that would be too late to stop. I think it is important for humans to respect other animals as co-inhabitants of the same home.
Fatima Bashir

Anonymous said...

Reading " Tragedy of the Common" has further supported my idea that humans are greedy and selfish when it comes to the environment. Humans continuously damage the earth and the animals that inhabit it. We tend to forget that our actions have negative affects on the earth. As a someone who is 100% vegetarian and limits animal by-products, passages like this one really interest me.

-Jada Baker

gabby said...

This reading actually connects to what I have been learning in the past couple of weeks in my geography class. Reading this excerpt, it annunciates that "the Tragedy of the Commons" occurs as we selfishly seek to pursue our own interests instead of thinking of the overall harm that we as individuals can cause to the land around us. This is how the vultures became extinct. It is necessary to understand that our actions can have negative impacts upon earth!

Daeja Daniels said...

Daeja Daniels

After reading this text it made me think about how many drugs are out and around and how dangerous they are to the human body. It also allowed for me to see and better understand how everything plays a role in our environment. We not only effect ourselves but plants and animals too. In the article it says,that industrial agriculture carries much of the blame for Europe's disappearing birds by taking out hedgerows, trees, and making fields bigger (116). This is humans thinking about only themselves.