The Speeding Rate of Extinction. Why You Should Care.


Last week, I read another article in The New York Times about the threat humans pose to other animal species and the environment in general.  Read it here: The Speeding Rate of Extinction 

Sadly, this news is not new, nor does it come as much of a surprise.  What is new–and this also just seems to get worse and worse every time a new article comes out–is the scope and speed at which this threat is impacting the planet.  The shocking number in this article is one million; according to the article, a new report from the United Nations indicates that one million plant and animal species are now at risk of extinction.  It’s such a high number, we can’t even begin to fathom it, or imagine the widespread consequences–some of which we will not know until it is too late.

I have written about this before, and if you read this blog you know that animals in particular are a concern of mine.  I love them, simply put, and I am mostly appalled by how humans treat them [beloved pets excluded, of course–that’s a whole other issue….] and how little regard we have for their lives and their habitats; and how little attention we give to our ethical responsibilities toward them.  Personally, I think animals are moral patients and have inherent value; they demand and deserve our respect, care and protection.

I know other people don’t feel that way, however, so often the most compelling arguments for positive environmental action are self-serving.  I find this frustrating, frankly, but I suppose I shouldn’t be so picky:  whatever, works, right?

So, if you find yourself in the latter camp, mostly unconcerned about the loss of some frogs and ferns, and sad but in a mostly theoretical way about the looming extinction of tigers and rhinos, try this argument on for size:  24 trillion dollars.  

From the article:

“For a long time, people just thought of biodiversity as saving nature for its own sake…But this report makes clear the links between biodiversity and nature and things like food security and clean water in both rich and poor countries.”

“A previous report…had estimated that, in the Americas, nature provides some $24 trillion of non-monetized benefits to humans each year. The Amazon rain forest absorbs immense quantities of carbon dioxide and helps slow the pace of global warming. Wetlands purify drinking water. Coral reefs sustain tourism and fisheries in the Caribbean. Exotic tropical plants form the basis of a variety of medicines.”

Does that get your attention?  It should.  The fact is that we have not really grasped the full ramifications of how climate change is going to affect the world’s population; let me be clearer–you have not fully grasped how climate change is going to affect YOU.  That beach your family loves to visit every summer?  How long do you think it will take for it to be underwater?  The different birds you like to watch come to your feeder in the backyard?  How long do you think it will be before they are gone, and only the robins are left?  The fish you love to eat?  The clock is ticking.  And this is to say nothing of the medicines we will never discover, the species that will vanish before we ever get to meet them, and the inter-species communities all over the world that will be destroyed by rising waters, climbing temperature and thawing ice.

I know it feels too overwhelming to even attempt to address, but even little steps help.  Go vegetarian–even if just one day a week.  And if you can’t, pay attention to which animals you are eating and how they are raised/caught/treated, and seek sustainable alternatives.  Walk and bike more, even just sometimes, instead of driving.  Stop using plastic grocery bags.  Reuse, recycle.

But you know all this; I know you do.  I don’t know what else to say, so I’m going to read some Mary Oliver and go outside.  Maybe try that.

“There is only one question; how to love this world.”


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