As we have seen, many natural factors harming Columbia Basin salmon populations have been on the rise since the 1970s. More generally, looking over periods from 10,000 to 100,000 years, the populations of many marine animals exhibit huge fluctuations. Examples include Dungeness crabs, Maine lobsters, Pacific anchovy, and many other species.52
As a general matter, the popular conception of a balance of nature is misleading. Modern science is moving toward what Gregg Easterbrook has called the action-packed balance of nature: at any given time, forces are at work disturbing any particular trend toward equilibrium.53 From this perspective, efforts to avoid any and all extinctions make no sense.
Nature would laugh at the idea that a salmon population at any moment is perfectly optimized for the natural conditions at that moment, so that its genetic purity must be preserved at all costs. Species that exist now are survivors of all kinds of catastrophic changes in the environment, and may only loosely fit conditions at the moment. They have many, many genes whose purpose only becomes apparent as conditions change.
52 See generally G. Easterbrook, A Moment on the Earth 659.
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