The Chronicle’s View

By and

They used to sell chocolate truffles with trading cards of endangered animals inside. The cards depicted cuddly panda bears or majestic Siberian tigers, and the purpose was to increase awareness of the animal?s plight.

One card that would probably not have been that popular was Cryptobiotic soil.

Although it just looks like crusty black dirt, Cryptobiotic soil is just as crucial and just as fragile as any Caribbean monk seal or Carolina northern flying squirrel.

The organism, consisting of algae, lichens, fungi and Cyanobacteria, prevents soil erosion, fixes nitrogen and retains water for surrounding plants.

All it takes to destroy it is one hiker who has wandered off the trail. While the crushed organism can regrow within five years, it isn?t environmentally useful for another 250 years.

There are other vital, endangered organisms which are easily overlooked. For example, some plants prefer to grow in high-traffic areas near hiking trails. If one hiker steps off the trail, however, the plants are killed.

While the chances of killing a Siberian tiger are not that great, the average person may be threatening hundreds of microorganisms, plants or insects on a daily basis.

It may be harder to love black moldy ?stuff,? but it?s necessary for those who want to truly help the environment.

As the naturalist and author Aldo Leopold pointed out, each and every organism on earth is part of a larger, carefully constructed system. Cutting one link in that system?however unglamorous and insignificant it may seem?affects everyone and everything.

Consumed with their personal lives and recent political events, many people shrug off environmental issues and say they don’t affect them.

But that?s short-term thinking.

In the end, preserving even the smallest organism in the environment will ensure a healthy ecosystem for our posterity and our posterity?s posterity.

All it takes is being aware of the effect your actions may have. Students can even take it a step further by joining a environmental group like Terra Firma or signing the petitions to get recycling on campus which are currently circulating.

It?s time to look around, read warning signs and take action. Most importantly, it?s time to care.