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Posted at 8:30 PM ET, 01/28/2010

The message in a beetle

By washingtonpost.com editors

By Rosemary Donaldson
Falls Church

Over the years, my early reverence for our third president has somewhat dimmed as evidence of his various trespasses has come to light. When I read about the plight of the Puritan tiger beetle in Maryland [“Cliff residents losing out to beetles on the brink; Endangered species depends on erosion that threatens Calvert County homes,” Metro, Jan. 25], however, I recalled the following words penned by Thomas Jefferson:

“For if one link in nature’s chain be lost, another might be lost, until the whole of things will vanish by piecemeal.” These are remarkable words, given the scope of 18th-century knowledge and understanding.

I feel very sorry for the residents of Chesapeake Ranch Estates; it is most unfortunate that the cliff they call home turns out to be one of the last remaining habitats of an endangered species. But this issue is not about the importance of humans over that of a dwindling beetle population (eerily similar to the fate of that hapless toad once alluded to by Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr.). It is that we stand at a crossroads, and we can decide to live in such a way that reduces our footprints on Earth — or not. Declining animal populations throughout the world have hinted at the likely catastrophic results of continuing as we have been going.

Perhaps, in this case, the beetle will not survive the hue and cry that will surely follow over the prospect of losing residential structures, but this should be a clarion call to county planning commissions to take a hard look at the development proposals for their areas, lest Jefferson prove a seer indeed.

By washingtonpost.com editors  | January 28, 2010; 8:30 PM ET
Categories:  Chesapeake Bay, HotTopic, Maryland, environment  
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Comments

Lets get real, please. Species have been appearing and dying out throughout the history of planet Earth. True, we should avoid egregious acts that cause one to diappear. But, not always. If we saved everything flora and fauna man would have been wiped out long ago. Then we would never have reached this great stage of development. No one would have developed the devilsfood cake with chocolate icing and a dip of French vanilla ice cream.

Posted by: BigD55 | January 29, 2010 2:23 PM | Report abuse

This is a tough issue because the people involved face serious losses. But should the rest of us pay for their error?

People just shouldn't build homes that close to cliffs overlooking water. Property rights are not entitlements to do anything on a piece of land. They are a limited set of rights that give one priority over others for the usage of the land. When the someone's proposal can permanently remove a species or alter the views of others, society has a right to place limits.

Posted by: Serp | February 2, 2010 6:03 AM | Report abuse

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