It’s no secret that deforestation, climate change, and habitat degradation is rapidly endangering plant and animal species around the world. But what you might not know is how incredibly quickly these species are disappearing right before our eyes.
According to a report from scientists at University of California, Berkeley, we are on the brink of facing the sixth great extinction on Earth — an episode of mass extinction where 75 percent of the species on the planet vanish within a short (geologically speaking) period of time. So how much time are we talking here? Approximately 3 to 22 centuries, so there is some time left, relatively speaking.
But that doesn’t mean we have time to drag our feet on this one… It is estimated that the IUCN Red List of Threatened and Endangered Species has catalogued less than 2.7 percent of the 1.9 million named species present on Earth. Which could mean a species reaches extinction before we can even document that it is being threatened. Yikes.
However, the cause of these extinctions is no mystery. We know what is driving this rapid decline of species. Biodiversity loss due to climate change, habitat loss, pollution, and overfishing, tops the list as the main culprits of the impending extinction, all causes initiated by human industry.
The scientists who authored the study do not view this as an indefinite death sentence for 75 percent of the world’s species, however, they see it as an opportunity for humans to take action. If we mobilize now, cut dependence on fossil fuels, and commit to conservation efforts, then we can turn this sinking ship around.
On a personal level, there are simple, practical things you can do to help prevent this from happening. One of the best ways to reduce your impact on the planet is to cut meat out of your diet, 22 percent of global carbon emissions come from meat production. If you’re not ready to commit 100 percent, try skipping meat a few times a week.
Another great thing you can do to help stop deforestation is to stop buying products that contain palm oil. Everyday, 300 football fields of forest are clear cut in the rainforest of the world to make way for palm oil plantations. Check out this article to learn more about palm oil in the products you buy and read this piece for simple alternatives.
Overfishing for commercial fish production is a massive issue that could be easily solved if more sections of the world’s oceans were designated as marine reserves. While President Obama did just designate a massive section of the Pacific Ocean as a marine reserve, a more immediate way to mitigate the damaging effects of overfishing is to outlaw inefficient fishing equipment, such as trawl and gill nets. Check out the Stop the Trawler campaign to learn more. One change you can make right now to help end overfishing is to stop eating seafood. Check out these awesome recipes for vegan seafood recipes.
Most importantly, one of the best ways to combat species extinction is to spread the word! Education is a powerful tool. If more people knew what was at stake, then maybe they would be more apt to change their ways.
Image source: Wikimedia Commons