Wednesday, October 08, 2014

Extinction for fun and profit

The dog is a gentleman; I hope to go to his heaven, not man's
(Mark Twain)

The approaching silence

It's a remarkable picture making the rounds on the internet: More than 30,000 walruses have come ashore in Alaska because of disappearing sea ice in the Chukchi Sea, an area where the oil and gas industry want to drill. This is the feeding area for the walruses and where the females give birth. A similar phenomenon is occurring along the Russian coast as well. Climate change is so inconvenient.

The depressing numbers

The World Wildlife Fund recently updated its Living Planet Report. In just two human generations half the animals are gone (10,000 representative population sampling of mammals, birds, reptiles and fish), which represents a 50 percent decline over the past 40 years.

The major causes are familiar. In addition to climate change, there is habitat destruction and loss, devastation caused by unsustainable levels of hunting and fishing—for whatever reasons—and exploitation in general. Right now between 23 percent and 36 percent of all birds mammals, and amphibians used for food or medicine are now threatened with extinction.

A house of death eaters

While the industrial slaughter of iconic animals like the elephant and the rhino is frequently in the news, less well known creature have many scientists far more worried and could have a direct and disastrous impact on Homo sapiens.

Some of us, for example, may know that the world's food production (possibly more than 60 percent) is dependent on bees and other pollinators, but how many know about the importance of the lowly worm, which turns waste into soil nutrients or that bats keep malaria rates down. It is the small, not so cuddly creatures, that may ultimately change everything for humankind, possibly much sooner than we might imagine.

No comments: