Like too many fruit flies in a bottle, there are now so many humans on this finite planet that we are changing our environment to be less favorable for a comfortable and enduring future. And, although we try not to alarm folks, any ecologist worth his salt knows that at some point density-dependent mortality factors eventually kick-in that keep populations from overshooting their environmental, or planetary, carrying-capacity. Certainly, our technology and cleverness have helped us elevate our species’ carrying-capacity, but our explosive population growth will soon outstrip these advantages as we exceed planetary boundaries. While there is much Earth-angstand hand-wringing over a long list of environmental issues, five green issues really and truly deserve serious attention and action by our species if we are to dodge excessive loss and adversity.
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The Hemorrhaging of Biodiversity
Our species’ activity within the last century is responsible for rapidly diminishing the diversity of life forms on this planet. Each species lost is a storehouse of environmental knowledge selected for over millions of years. The exploding sciences of biomimicry, bioengineering, and genetic manipulation highlight the enormous potential a single species may have in helping humanity create a healthier, more sustainable interaction with our environment through improvements to medicines, food production, nutrition, technologies, and resilient ecosystems.
A conservative estimate is that well over a hundred species a day are going extinct, with the rate of disappearing species accelerating as natural habitats shrink, fragment, and degrade and commercial exploitation of vulnerable species escalates. The loss of species is irreversible and the loss of old-growth natural habitats irretrievable within centuries. The fewer the species remaining on this planet, the more tenuous our own existence.
EO Wilson rightly warns that our destruction of the Earth’s biodiversity will be the thing that future generations will least forgive us for. What can we do? A good start is to fully shut down the international trade in wildlife, protect all remaining natural habitats, from rainforests to untrawled seafloors, and begin to restore watersheds by removing dams and protecting headwater and riverbank vegetation.