Extinction is the relationship between diachrony and synchrony. To understand how and why, we must recall the biodiversity is not only the variability among and within species, but also a patrimony expressed and displayed over million of years of evolution. As a patrimony, biodiversity is the context where human civilisation developed. But the civilisation itself has been shaped and determined by biodiversity. Up today, when only one species, us, has the responsibility to keep and protect it. It’s properly our ecological connection with faunas, and the planet, to be synchronic and diachronic.
According to Giorgio Agamben, our link to the past (the ancestors) and to the future (the young generations) has to do with the idea of childhood embraced by our society. Childhood can overlap with most romantic environmentalists consider a primeval Eden, where our conflict with the other species would have not been relevant or even zero. But historically speaking such a begininning never existed. So it’s needed to seek elsewhere – this is Agamben’s reasoning – the effective meaning of human childhood. That’s why diachrony – we’re part of the evolutionary processes of the biosphere – is the inescapable condition of the advanced societies. The direct consequence of this state-of-being is that Homo sapiens lives synchronically with his past. What does it mean ? It means that “ancestors” (evolutionary steps, the emergence and then the background extinction of species, genetic inheritance, the chemical and physicist status of the living planet) are the “unstable drivers of meaning” ( significanti instabili, in Italian ) of the present time, a time constantly shaped by palaeontology.
Social systems, Agamben says, work thanks to the conflict between what lasts from the past and what comes from the future. But neither the past nor the future has the capacity to create history by themselves. They drive meaning through each other. Agamben’s thoughts shows that legacy is a positive way to build and frame an ecological relationship. So, what about the planet today ?
Conservation plans with no regards to the past (how extinction events occurred from the Pleistocene to the current defaunation) stay not realistic. We cannot hope to keep and conserve biodiversity by closing it into stunning isles of protected areas scattered in an ocean of crops and human settlements. As life has a diachronic, intrinsic trait – the transmission of genes implied in the evolutionary process – we should look at conservation in a more challenging way.
The phylogenetic diversity expresses the coexistence of different evolutionary lineages in the same ecosystems. It suggests to us to admit that in conservation it’s the evolutionary potential to be really at stake, not the magnificent show of the great national parks ( the protected areas are only the 30-40% of Earth ). Debt of extinction and time lag reveal that the present is measured by the past. In other words, it’s a legacy pattern. We live in the intersection of Nature and Culture, of Aion ( the human time, in Greek) and Chronos ( the Ages, in Greek ). In this dialectic crossing point lies the conservation issue.