The Little Prince argues for the intrinsic value of biodiversity.

The most beautiful rose on Asteroid B-612.  One of a set of species described from only a single specimen.
The most beautiful rose on Asteroid B-612. One of a set of species described from only a single specimen.

“The flowers have been growing thorns for millions of years. For millions of years the sheep have been eating them just the same. And is it not a matter of consequence to try to understand why the flowers go to so much trouble to grow thorns which are never of any use to them? Is the warfare between the sheep and the flowers not important? Is this not of more consequence than a fat red-faced gentleman’s sums? And if I know– I, myself– one flower which is unique in the world, which grows nowhere but on my planet, but which one little sheep can destroy in a single bite some morning, without even noticing what he is doing– Oh! You think that is not important!”

His face turned from white to red as he continued:
“If some one loves a flower, of which just one single blossom grows in all the millions and millions of stars, it is enough to make him happy just to look at the stars. He can say to himself, ‘Somewhere, my flower is there…’ But if the sheep eats the flower, in one moment all his stars will be darkened… And you think that is not important!”

 

Et en français:

-Il y a des millions d’années que les fleurs fabriquent des épines. Il y a des millions d’années que les moutons mangent quand même les fleurs. Et ce n’est pas sérieux de chercher à comprendre pourquoi elles se donnent tant de mal pour se fabriquer des épines qui ne servent jamais à rien? Ce n’est pas important la guerre des moutons et des fleurs? Ce n’est pas sérieux et plus important que les additions d’un gros Monsieur rouge? Et si je connais, moi, une fleur unique au monde, qui n’existe nulle part, sauf dans ma planète, et qu’un petit mouton peut anéantir d’un seul coup, comme ça, un matin, sans se rendre compte de ce qu’il fait, ce n’est pas important ça?

Il rougit, puis reprit:

-Si quelqu’un aime une fleur qui n’existe qu’à un exemplaire dans les millions d’étoiles, ça suffit pour qu’il soit heureux quand il les regarde. Il se dit: “Ma fleur est là quelque part…” Mais si le mouton mange la fleur, c’est pour lui comme si, brusquement, toutes les étoiles s’éteignaient! Et ce n’est pas important ça!

– Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, The Little Prince, 1943.

Published by

downwithtime

Assistant scientist in the Department of Geography at the University of Wisconsin, Madison. Studying paleoecology and the challenges of large data synthesis.

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