Earth Faces ‘Catastrophic Loss of Species’ – Environment –

Earth Faces ‘Catastrophic Loss of Species’ – Environment –

Uh, yeah. I’m not sure what’s worse about this, that the basic news it presents is already so well known and so obvious, or how little people care about it. Well, some people care, that’s the point of the biodiversity council idea talked about in the article.

There’s a clue in the article.

There have been five previous mass extinctions in the 3.5 billion-year history of life on earth. All are believed to have been caused by major geophysical events that halted photosynthesis, such as an asteroid collision or the mass eruption of super-volcanoes. The present “sixth wave” of extinction began with the migration of modern humans out of Africa about 100,000 years ago. It accelerated with the invention of agriculture 10,000 years ago and began to worsen with the development of industry in the 18th century.

What factor in biodiversity loss would have started with human expansion out of Africa, speeded up with agriculture, and gotten worse with industrialization? The single factor that neatly runs through all that is habitat loss. It’s also the factor that we humans are least amenable to doing anything about. Oh, sure, we might seek out products that avoid environment-damaging packaging. We might pay a premium for vehicles that run cleaner. But to even put a lid on habitat loss would mean giving up developing those undeveloped spaces. Reversing habitat loss would mean giving up some places we’ve already developed and restoring them as places suitable for wildlife.

Yes, there are plenty of other factors that are operative in this “sixth wave” of extinctions. Even if we do something about all of the rest of them, don’t expect a sudden halt to the decline of biodiversity. We will have to come to grips with habitat loss as an issue sometime soon. Whatever way it goes, there will be plenty of pain to go with that. If we continue to blow off the issue, expect the sixth wave to continue unabated. If we make an effort to stem that outcome, there will be some high human costs associated with stemming habitat loss. If we keep or expand human population size, that means increasing density of human populations, especially in urban areas. Trying to keep human population size at its current level, or even work toward a reduction (passively, please — people die naturally soon enough), brings along its own set of hot-button issues in our society.

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Wesley R. Elsberry

Falconer. Interdisciplinary researcher: biology and computer science. Photographer. Husband. Christian. Activist.