Joe Roman


On his book Listed: Dispatches from America’s Endangered Species Act

Cover Interview of September 27, 2011


I hope that Listed will help reframe the argument about protecting endangered species.

For too long the focus has been on the costs of protection.  But since the passage of the Endangered Species Act on 1973, there have been several developments in economics and epidemiology that show just how dependent we are on biodiversity for our well-being.

Many studies have revealed that the loss of biodiversity can increase the spread of infectious diseases such as West Nile virus, hanta virus, and Lyme disease.  The collapse of an ecological community can result in the rise of a generalist species—such as the white-footed mouse or the deer mouse—that host a viral or bacterial pathogen. As other species—which don’t pass on the disease—drop out, more people become infected. A healthy ecological community can be a buffer against such zoonotic illnesses.

Biodiversity and wilderness protection belongs at the top of our priority list.  If we value the many benefits of species protection, we’re more likely to do everything in our power to reduce the extinction rate, to stem the tide of the sixth mass extinction.