Biologists, economists, and ecologists have gathered at the Vatican to discuss what actions humanity can take to preserve Earth’s biosphere. Attending the Biological Extinction conference, these researchers say one in five species are currently threatened with extinction, but that statistic could skyrocket to 50 percent of all species on Earth by 2100 if we do nothing to stem the preventable carnage.

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The conference organizers said endangered species like the rhinoceros or tiger may make headlines now and again, but we’re largely overlooking the peril other living things face. In case we think otherwise, Earth’s animals and plants are vital for the planet and for us: they provide food and medicine, absorb carbon emissions, purify the air and water, and regenerate soil, to name a few functions. The organizers said, “The living fabric of the world is slipping through our fingers without our showing much sign of caring.”

Related: First mammal species succumbs to climate change

Paul Ehrlich, a biologist from Stanford University, blamed the destruction of the environment on the lifestyles of rich Western countries. He said, “Rich Western countries are now siphoning up the planet’s resources and destroying its ecosystems at an unprecedented rate. We want to build highways across the Serengeti to get more rare earth minerals for our cellphones. We grab all the fish from the sea, wreck the coral reefs, and put carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. We have triggered a major extinction event. The question is: how do we stop it?”

Researchers will be at the Vatican today talking about economic and social changes we could take to try and save the planet’s species. The Pontifical Academy of Sciences and Pontifical Academy of Social Sciences are sponsoring the workshop, which continues until March 1 to explore several ecological issues.

Ehrlich said, “If you look at the figures, it is clear that to support today’s world population sustainably – and I emphasize the word sustainably – you would require another half a planet to provide us with those resources. However, if everyone consumed resources at the U.S. level – which is what the world aspires to – you will need another four or five Earths.”

Via The Guardian

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