Mother Nature is much smarter than we tend to give her credit for. No matter what your belief – evolution or creation – wildlife existed before humanity. Therefore, it would stand to reason that humanity relies on wildlife. And now, with nearly 20,000 species of plants and animals on the brink of extinction, it’s impossible to ignore the potential effects that man may soon feel if something doesn’t change.
Approximately 100 heads of state and government are expected to attend a three-day summit in Rio to discuss the planet’s environmental issues, including poverty and the potential extinction of 19,817 species of wildlife that have been placed on the prestigious Red List – an annually updated list that provides an in-depth look at a small fraction of the world’s known species to gain and understanding of the world’s biodiversity health.
The world has already lost 801 species to complete extinction. Another 63 no longer exist in the wild. A remaining 10,497 species are considered to be threatened – 3,947 of which are “critically endangered,” 5,766 are “endangered,” and 10,104 are “vulnerable.” To put this all in perspective that means that 41 percent of amphibian species, 33 percent of reef-building corals, 25 percent of mammals, 20 percent of plants and 13 percent of birds on the planet are currently Red Listed.
According to Julia Marton-Lefevre, head of the International Union for Conservation of Nature, (IUCN), the company that compiles the yearly Red List, the new findings are “a clarion call to world leaders gathering in Rio to secure the web of life on this planet.”
Generally, the loss of species is due to habitat destruction, but invasive species and the impact of climate change are also contributing factor. Additionally, the exploitation of oceans, lakes and rivers are responsible for much of the loss of marine and sea life.
“In some parts of the world, up to 90 percent of coastal populations obtain much of their food and earn their primary income through fishing; yet over-fishing has reduced some commercial fish stocks by over 90 percent,” stated the IUCN.
So how does this all affect humanity? These various forms of wildlife are used to create medicines, provide food, support livelihood and aid in carbon to oxygen conversion. For example, the world’s coral reefs, 55 percent of which are overfished, provide 275 million people with food. Insects, bats and birds pollinate crops and provide an “ecosystem service” to humans worth an estimated $200 billion per year. But it’s not just about how wildlife can serve us – it’s about maintaining the intricate balance of life, no matter what that life form is.
While I find it highly commendable that the world leaders are meeting to discuss this issue, it really must be said that wildlife biodiversity rests in the hands of each and every one of us. It’s easy to let the responsibility fall somewhere else, but the truth is, we are responsible for our consumption, our waste, or decision to overlook how the things we buy and do impact the intricate balance of the world around us. There are ways that each person can make a difference – the difference per person may be small, but if everyone is doing something, everything they possibly can, it adds up to a lot.
I’d like to take a moment to share an excerpt from one of my very favorite Dr. Seuss books, The Lorax.
“UNLESS someone like you cares a whole awful lot, nothing is going to get better, it’s not….You’re in charge of the last Truffula Seeds. And Truffula Trees are what everyone needs. Plant a new Truffula. Treat it with care. Give it clean water. And feed it fresh air. Grow a forest. Protect it from axes that hack. Then the Lorax and all of his friends may come back.”