Notes From The Edge: Botanist Works To Save Samples of Dying Species

"Steve Perlman doesn’t take Prozac, like some of the other rare-plant botanists he knows. Instead, he writes poetry.

Either way, you have to do something when a plant you’ve long known goes extinct. Let’s say for 20 years you’ve been observing a tree on a fern-covered crag thousands of feet above sea level on an island in the Pacific. Then one day you hike up to check on the plant and find it dying. You know it’s the last one of its species, and that you’re the only witness to the end of hundreds of thousands of years of evolution, the snuffing out of a line of completely unique genetic material. You might have to sit down and write a poem. Or at least bring a bit of the dead plant to a bar and raise a beer to its life. (Perlman has done both.) You might even need an antidepressant.

'I’ve already witnessed about 20 species go extinct in the wild,' Perlman says. 'It can be like you’re dealing with your friends or your family, and then they die.'"

Zoë Schlanger reports for Quartz June 17, 2017.

Source: Quartz, 06/19/2017