The Extinction Crisis
In 2019, a United Nations report found that around 1 million plants and animals are now threatened with extinction, many within the next few decades, due to human activity. The systematic review by The Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES) of about 15,000 scientific and government sources along with indigenous and local knowledge is the most comprehensive analysis ever completed. The report revealed that many direct and indirect factors contribute to this crisis, including: climate change, habitat loss, pollution, overpopulation, invasive species, and the exploitation of creatures. Of these, the greatest threat to species is habitat loss. And importantly, although climate warming and unstable weather threaten species, protecting habitat for species buffers climate change through carbon management and other benefits.
The World Economic Forum reports the following risks:
- Since 1970, agricultural production, fish harvesting, bioenergy production and the harvesting of materials have increased in response to population growth, rising demand, and technological development. Unequal distribution of these trends across countries contributes to an unequal distribution of species loss.
- The average abundance of native species in most major land-based habitats has fallen by at least 20 percent, mostly since 1900.
- The number of invasive alien species per country has risen by about 70 percent since 1970 in the 21 countries with sufficiently detailed records.
Without measures to stop and reverse nature loss there will be a “further acceleration in the global rate of species extinction, which is already at least tens to hundreds of times higher, than it has averaged over the past 10 million years,” the report states.
The extinction rate is already accelerating at the fastest pace in Earth’s history. Should we continue to lose the diversity of life, all species, including our own, are in peril.
We need a more complete understanding of all the species of our planet, including their locations and connections. By identifying more fully with all of life and with each other, we can support a more enduring ethic to care for our planet.