For millennials, stories about our endangered environment are nothing new. The rise in fossil fuel consumption, pollution and deforestation has brought attention to the negative impacts these have not only on humans as well as the extinction of several species of animals.
“Extinct” is defined as no longer in existence due to ending or dying out. According to the Center of Biological Diversity’s Website, the Earth is approaching its sixth wave of mass extinction, brought on solely by human activities. While species usually disappear at an average rate of one to five species per year due to natural causes, human activity has increased the natural rate of extinction by 1,000 to possibly 10,000 times, meaning we could lose from 30 to 50 percent of all species by 2050.
The main causes of the increasing rate of extinction are: Introduction of exotic species, habitat loss and global warming. Fish and amphibians, for example, are at high risk of extinction due to water pollution and high rates of fishing in the oceans.
Loss of habitat or habitat encroachment is when the natural home of an animal is rendered unlivable, and therefore, it is unable to support life. This could be because of pollution, destruction of the habitat and fragmentation of a habitat, meaning the habitat has been cut in half. The rusty-patched bumblebee was recently placed on the “endangered” list September of this year due to habitat destruction and pesticide use.
Animal poaching, otherwise known as the illegal killing of animals is also a major cause. Animals considered valuable based on their by-products, such as fur or ivory, are the main targets. In 2013, 946 rhinoceroses were poached, meaning they were killed at a rate of about two per day. Rhinoceros tusks are believed to have medicinal purposes. Similarly, tigers in Asia are hunted because it is believed their parts are also useful for medicine. Both these claims have been disproved, showing that neither tiger nor rhino parts have any medicinal benefit. The population of African and Asian elephants have also decreased by more than half.
With all this information, it’s hard to imagine what an individual can do to make a difference, but every change starts with us. We can:
- Try to minimize what we use and how we dispose of it. It may just end up in our waters if we’re not careful.
- Use recycled wood. Try not to contribute to industries that cause large amounts of deforestation.
- Be mindful of how much paper we use or go completely paperless. Paper companies are also responsible for deforestation.
- Be careful about how much animal product, particularly beef, we consume. These companies contribute to animal agriculture, which contributes to pollution and habitat loss.
- But most importantly, share what you know with others and advise them to make small changes as well.
Knowledge is power. The world will only heal if we work together.
By Leah Symmone