Of all the species that have existed on Earth, 99.9% are now extinct. Many of them died in five major cataclysmic events. And according to scientists, we are now in the middle of a sixth mass extinction event. Every day, 150 species of plants, insects, and mammals go extinct. At this rate, by 2050, half of Earth’s remaining species will also be extinct. But why is this happening, what are the effects, and how can we stop this?
In an analysis done by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) of 362 large species, also known as megafauna, it was found that 70% of them are in decline and 59% are classified as threatened.
Pollution, habitat loss, and global warming are a few reasons why so many species are going extinct. While they all pose threats too large species, also known as megafauna, there is still one major culprit out there that is driving these species towards their own extinction: us.
In fact, 80% of the decline in global biological diversity is caused by habitat destruction.
In Indonesia, the mass destruction of rainforests makes way to palm oil plantations. Indonesia is the world’s largest leading producer of oil, but this number doesn’t come without sacrifice. Animals are forced to flee from these rainforests as they watch their homes go up in smoke. Another reason is food. Many people in Asia capture the great white shark just to cut off its fin, and then, still alive, they throw it back into the ocean where it dies a slow and painful death.
More than 70% of the world's threatened megafauna species are killed for meat.
Furthermore, many animals are killed for commercial gain and sport. Poachers in Africa kill elephants and then cut off their tusks for ivory. They then sell it, even though it’s illegal. In Norway, Iceland, and Japan, people engage in whaling. Over a thousand whales are killed each year for their meat and body parts, states the World Wildlife Fund.
The harm of this is catastrophic. All animals play an important role in the ecosystem. It’s extremely fragile, and to remove one species from it can cause cataclysmic damage. For example, we need bees because they pollinate food crops. Pollination allows the plant to fertilize and produce fruit and vegetables. However, bees are dying out due to a multitude of factors: pesticides, habitat destruction, air pollution, global warming, and more. If bees die out, we also do. We rely on so many species to live, but we’re causing these species that have been on this planet longer than us to die out.
But what can you, the average citizen, do to help solve this problem? First, buy eco-friendly products. Avoid buying potentially damaging products, such as those of large corporations that involve resources and processes which can be harmful. Next, recycle, reuse, and reduce. This goes without saying.
Tons of plastic are dumped into the ocean, which is then mistaken for food by sea animals and consumed, which they die from. This problem can be solved so easily by making sure you are recycling. Finally, last but not least, spread awareness. Just doing this is great. Speak up when you can and support the organizations that are trying to stop this. These are only a few of the ways you can help solve this problem, but doing just one of these can make a huge impact.
The Earth is our home, but let’s not forget that it was the home of animals long before we came. We need to save our home. As David Attenborough once said, “If we take care of nature, nature will take care of us.”
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Vidal, John, “Protect Nature for world economic security, warns UN biodiversity chief.” The Guardian, 16 Aug. 2010, Protect nature for world economic security, warns UN biodiversity chief | Biodiversity | The Guardian
Pegonzi, Alice, “Time’s up: The 5 Steps to Prevent Animal Extinction.” Ecobnb, 25 Feb. 2021, A 5 steps guide to prevent animal extinction - Ecobnb
Henry, Leigh, “Whales.” World Wildlife Fund, 2021, Whale | Species | WWF (worldwildlife.org)
Ackley, Katherine Anne, “Perspectives on Contemporary Issues” 2016