Now 2007 is upon us, but not the white-fin dolphin. It's gone, too. Another year, another species.

A team of 25 scientists recently searched the Yangtze River, the dolphin's only home, and could find not a one. That was not a great surprise. The species was known to be in trouble. The last sighting was in 2004.

Perhaps the search missed one or two of the dolphins. If so, no matter. The species is done for. The United Nation's environmental unit has declared the Yangtze a dead zone.

This fresh-water dolphin had been on Earth 20 million years. Imagine that: 20 million. Geologic epochs came and went. The dolphin had taken the worst that volatile and violent nature could throw at them. They were no match for a man-made environment of overfishing, industrial development and intense shipping.

Is it really necessary to rehearse what ought to be the obvious? There's an alarm going off here, adding to the many already clanging and wailing.

Genesis had God giving humankind dominion over the Earth. This was not a favor. It was a task. Dominion must suppose stewardship.

There is a bitter irony in our failures at the job. Bitter because, if we were paying attention, we would notice that when we knuckle down and, crucially, if it's not too late, we can stop and sometimes reverse the damage from our neglect and despoliation. Environmentalism works.

Thirty-five years of reasonably serious attention to air and water quality in the United States has improved both. And timely alertness to imminent species extinctions has led to rescues.

The bald eagle is to be taken off the endangered species list in February; its population has increased 15-fold since 1963. The whooping crane, down to 15 in 1941, now number 518. The loss and degradation of migration habitat remains a challenge, but this is the first time in more than a century that the population exceeds 500.

It is the overwhelming, international judgment of scientists in the relevant disciplines that the Earth is warming and that the warming is man-made, not part of a natural cycle. There are a million arguments over details but that's the big picture and it is not in serious question among serious people.

The Bush White House, which shrugs energy conservation off as perhaps nice for personal virtue but useless as policy, first denied global warming is occurring, then grudgingly admitted it is but swore the administration couldn't for the life of it figure out why, so what's a poor body to do?

To act would inconvenience automotive, fossil-fuel and other industries and abrade the political right, which holds, as doctrine, that global warming is lefty hoax created to smash free markets and spit on Adam Smith's grave.

Yet word has slipped out from the administration that the polar bear may soon be listed as endangered, the first species designated as a potential victim of the global warming that the White House says we shouldn't try to do anything about.

Dolphins are mammals, like us, a thought that often charms us. Maybe we should pay more notice to the fact that we're mammals. Like dolphins.

Tom Teepen writes for Cox Newspapers. His e-mail address is