There’s been a lot in the news today. Actually, I guess that’s a bit of an understatement. There have been a lot of important stories for people to read, watch or listen to. One story I read this morning on USA Today’s website greatly concerns me. With all the other events of the day it is now basically hidden and that makes me wonder how many saw it. The article I am referring to is called “Sixth Mass Extinction?” and gives some horrifying statistics from a recent report concerning the extinction of species.
The study, which first appeared in Science Advances last week, claims “Our global society has started to destroy species of other organisms at an accelerating rate, initiating a mass extinction episode unparalleled for 65 million years.” The study concluded that even with conservative statistics, recent extinction rates are unprecedented in the history of mankind. Some of the statistics are almost unfathomable. According to the report we are currently losing mammal species 20 to 100 times the rate of the past. Since 1900 sixty-nine mammal species have gone extinct, along with 400 other invertebrates. The report also claims that since 1970 we’ve lost 52% of the Earth’s bird, mammal, fish, reptile and amphibian population.
The last mass extinction, the 5th one, included the disappearance of the dinosaurs. Scientists have long pondered the cause of this mass extinction. I’ve heard answers like a meteor hitting the earth and climate change given for that mass extinction. But what is the cause of the current one? According to the study, we are. The USA Today article says “At current rates of consumption and emissions, 1 1/2 Earths would be required to meet humanity’s demands on nature each year. Those demands include renewable resources like food, fuel, land and ‘forests we need to absorb our carbon emissions.’” The report cited goes on to say, “For more than 40 years, humanity’s demand has exceeded the planet’s biocapacity — the amount of biologically productive land and sea area that is available to regenerate these resources.”
If the statistics and information in this report are accurate this is truly disturbing news. A natural catastrophe of epic proportions is in the works, one due largely to our poor stewardship of the earth. I realize that there are many people who won’t care that so many species created by God are disappearing at a rapid rate. Unfortunately, it seems many humans are only concerned about their own survival. I’d like to think that the biblical story of Noah is a reminder to us that God cares about all creatures. I also believe that God’s declaring all the animals He made to be good in Genesis 1 is another such reminder. In my mind the needless elimination of any species is a great sin on our part.
A couple of days ago I spent a good bit of time wandering the halls of the Chicago Institute of Art. I was overwhelmed by the vast collection of art work assembled there. So many of the pieces on display are priceless. I wonder what the response would be if 52% of this collection disappeared over the next forty years. Would that be viewed as something insignificant? Or would it be viewed as a national tragedy? I would like to think the answer would be the latter.
All of us should be very concerned about the ever increasing loss of species on earth. We have a moral and spiritual obligation to do something about it. Not only should we support efforts to save various endangered species, we must also look at our own lifestyles and see if there are not steps that need to be taken to lessen our demand on the earth’s resources. We simply cannot continue to move in the direction we’ve been heading and not expect there to be dire consequences not only for a long list of endangered creatures but for ourselves as well.
I have a strong feeling that the USA Today report will get lost in the shuffle of all the other important news from today. Hopefully, however, it will not be lost for long. This is something that demands our attention and the sooner the better.
(For today’s entry I have chosen wildlife images I have taken of animals that either have been or continue to be on the endangered species list–bald eagle, sea otter, American crocodile, and Stellar sea lions.)