“Habitat loss and degradation, and exploitation through hunting and fishing (intentionally for food or sport, or accidentally, for example as bycatch) are the primary causes of decline.” ~ World Wildlife Fund report
Wildlife populations across the world have plummeted 52 percent in the past four decades, due to human impacts, the World Wildlife Fund reports. And hunting is a huge factor, according to WWF: “When habitat loss and degradation is compounded by the added pressure of wildlife hunting, the impact on species can be devastating.”
Some 90 percent of the fish have disappeared from of the seas due to human activity, including overfishing. Scientists, ever cautious in predictions, say that by 2048 there will be no more saltwater fish. Freshwater species have declined 76 percent overall. Those are the findings of a 2006 study led by Boris Worm, Ph.D., of Dalhousie University in Halifax, Nova Scotia.
The World Wildlife Fund’s 2014 Living Planet Report tracked more than 10,000 populations of mammals, birds, reptiles, amphibians and fish all over the world. More than half the world’s vertebrate wildlife individuals have disappeared in just 40 years because of humans. It is a disastrous trajectory. For more than 40 years, humans have exceeded the capacity of earth and her nonhuman creatures to recover.
A recent report prepared by the Stockholm Resilience Center shows that humans have overrun four of the nine “planetary boundaries” that make the earth habitable. Those tipping points are biodiversity extinction rates, deforestation, climate change and the flow of nitrogen/phosphorus (used on land as fertilizer). Will Steffan, lead author of the report, describes a “zone of uncertainty” we have entered that needs urgent attention now — not in a perilous and irreparable future.
At the rate things are going, Earth in the coming decades could cease to be a “safe operating space” for human beings. Two core boundaries — climate change and biosphere integrity — have been identified, and either could drive the Earth system into a new state if it is substantially and persistently transgressed.
A 2014 study led by biologist Stuart Pimm of Duke University found that, unless human behavior changes quickly, the earth will experience massive extinction and will cease to exist as we have known it.
“The conclusion that the world’s dominant economic model — a globalized form of neoliberal capitalism, largely based on international trade and fueled by extracting and consuming natural resources — is the driving force behind planetary destruction will not come as a shock…” Jon Queally wrote recently at CommonDreams. The deterioration aligns with the population explosion of humans since the 1950s and global capitalism commodifying wild beings and nature for take.
The Smithsonian Channel in February is featuring a documentary called “Mass Extinction: Life at the Brink.” Sean B. Carroll, UW-Madison evolutionary biologist is a contributor.
During a Salon.com interview Carroll said, “(I)f we do business as usual, that’s (mass extinction) a certainty. Since, say, 1800, with the Industrial Revolution and the way we have fished the oceans, timbered the forests, developed the land and basically removed creatures simply through conflict or hunting or harvesting — that’s the path we’re on. … (T)he populations are much smaller than they used to be in history. So ranges of creatures are really reduced and their population sizes are really reduced so they’re very vulnerable to the next insult.”
He continues: “There’s some great stories in that arena where especially in parts of the world where people have come to appreciate that things being left intact and alive are more valuable than their being harvested … There’s thousands and thousands of species at risk.”
The studies described above do not make recommendations for solutions, but some solutions are obvious:
• Slow human population growth (the very core of the problem). Stop arbitrary population control of other species and manage our own.
• End slaughterhouses. Animal agriculture and dairy are 51 percent of the cause of climate change, and also are the excuse for trapping and trophy killing wildlife to facilitate and subsidize grazing on public lands. Deforestation of the Amazon and Indonesian rain forests is driving extinction in the most biodiverse remnants of the world while expanding monocultures of soybeans and grains to feed animal agriculture worldwide. Ancient aquifers are depleted to service 70 billion farm animals for slaughter. It is unsustainable.
• Dismantle the state wildlife killing agencies funded by hunting (killing) licenses. Replace them with humane stewardship agencies funded with general public funds available from wildlife watching and eco-tourism. End trapping, hounding and hunting.
• Locally, participate in the annual elections for delegates to our sole advisory body (the Conservation Congress) to advise the Wisconsin Legislature on these urgently needed changes — coming up Monday, April 13, 2015, at 6:30 p.m. in every county in Wisconsin — and run for one of the two delegate (of five) positions open every year in every county.
• Rewild: Set aside from the land used to feed and grow tame species for slaughter large core areas of protected land for wild species and connect them with corridors for migration. Return large natural carnivores to the landscape.
• Support rapid transition from extractive, dirty energy to renewable solar, geothermal and wind.
• Recognize, as Pope Francis declares, that all animals have souls.
It took 5 to 10 million years for Earth to recover from the last major extinction. Recognize crisis as opportunity — but this one is beyond the tipping point. Organize locally. Now.
Animal lives matter.
URGENT ACTION ALERT: Wisconsin legislator Reid Ribble, 202-225-5665 or here online, is building a bipartisan effort to permanently remove Endangered Species Act protections from Great Lakes and Wyoming wolves, doing an end-run around the Endangered Species Act. It will be done the same corrupt way wolves were delisted originally — by attaching a rider to a funding bill. The courts (wolves’ only protection) would not be able to protect our wolves. You can find all of Wisconsin legislators who will vote on this at the end of this article. Please contact them to oppose this ignorant effort. You can send them this column for context.