In this BBC story, the discovery of five or so species of troglobite spiders has halted a proposed ten billion dollar mining venture, with an Australian EPA ruling that the mining venture would cause the extinction of at least five species.
Good for the spiders. I hate them, and they’re creepy, but they do represent a unique species. Apparently exposure to ultraviolet light will kill them. (So, if I do go on my proposed emigratory trip to Australia, I will carry a UV lamp with me, along with a frozen-ammo paintball gun for the Cane Toads. Although the spiders live only on “organic matter” deep underground. No mention of what the “organic matter” actually is…which is even creepier…)
Given the Cane Toad epidemic, the rabbit epidemic, that mysterious thing that happened to all the foxes, you’d think the Australian government have learned their lesson about messing with ecosystems. And it appears they have. But the Opposition Environmental spokesperson had this to say :
Because [the government has] upgraded the requirements of the mining sector in the environmental approvals process to find what’s out there, they go out there and find things.
Yes, that’s right : he’s annoyed that the environmental impact specialists employed or contracted by the government or the mining company to look at environmental impact are doing their jobs. It’s fairly obvious he would prefer that they all be blindfolded before setting out to do their survey.
And, hey, let’s be realistic : should five spider species really stop a ten billion dollar mining venture that might provide employment for a lot of people? Probably not. But it doesn’t hurt to take a step back, and say “Well, let’s think about this for a bit”.
On a contrasting note, New Zealand seem to have the right idea. On a recent trip there, a friend of mine got a two-hundred dollar fine for having dirt on his shoes when going through customs. They’re pretty serious about preventing non-indigenous species from interfering with their ecosystem.