To Live Without a Home
Since the dawn of time, species have died off in vast numbers.In fact, out of all the species to ever live, 99% are now extinct (Stefoff 18).
The process of evolution guarantees that certain species will eventually cease to exist. However, since people inhabited the Earth, millions of living creatures have become extinct or endangered much sooner than expected. The human population is the direct cause for most endangered species today. Our biggest plague to the extinction problem is the damage we do to habitats. From deforestation to the destruction of coral reefs, species’ home are being destroyed every single day. One of the greatest ways to combat the problem of extinction is to preserve and restore habitats.
If we do this, there is hope. Despite the dinosaur, extinction really came into fruition when people arrived. Take the dodo bird for example. After decades of hunting, the species completely vanished. The dodo bird is not the only negative result of human activity. The passenger pigeon, the most common bird in North America numbering in the billions, became extinct in 1914 (Stefoff 13).
The human population has the power to completely obliterate an entire species. It is noted that “…the overwhelming majority of extinctions in modern times are caused by people” (Stefoff 55).
In the last 300 years, thousands of species of plants and animals have become extinct because of us (Silverstein 6). Like the dodo bird and passenger pigeon, the buffalo, although not becoming extinct, came very close to it.There were 30 million buffalo in the 1860s, but by 1883, all but 1,000 were left (Silverstein 14). When humans started pushing out west and found animals like the buffalo, those species quickly came in jeopardy. Despite all the bad, it must be noted that people have done a lot of good to stop the problem of extinction. For example, William Hornaday, director of the Bronx Zoological Park, convinced zoo officials to set aside twenty acres of protected land for the buffalo (Silverstein 14).
Laws have also been enforced over the past decades. The Endangered Species Act of 1973 made it illegal to killor harm endangered and threatened animals (Silverstein 17). These acts have undoubtedly saved lives, but then why is the number of species on the endangered species list ever-growing? “According to the 2005 Millennium Ecosystem Assessment…
humans are making more changes to the natural ecosystems today than in any other period in human history,” notes researcher Lydia Bjornlund (19). Although there are steps taken to help the problem, it is clear that we are still not doing enough. Habitats are vital to species, not only providing them with shelter and food, but adhering to every single need that plant or animal may have. Habitats are extremely particular. For example, the spotted owl, an animal on the endangered species list, needs a specific tree to nest in a specific part of North America (Patent 11). Even though protected areas are set aside, these lands may not accommodate several species, eventually proving to be detrimental.
Furthermore, a large amount of animals need vast tracts of land to survive. Even though there are designated habitats that cannot be removed via humans, these protected areas are not enough. It is noted that “some animals require habitats scattered over thousands of miles for survival” (Patent 11). Migrators like the monarch butterfly, whom scientists fear may become endangered soon, suffer despite conservation laws that are taking place. One species of fish could only live in a specific river in Tennessee, and when a dam was built, the fish started dying rapidly (Stefoff 59).
Species’ needs are extremely particular, and we need to protect them. The World Wildlife Fund estimates 20% of all wildlife could disappear within twenty years (Silverstein 7). It seems that all the world’s efforts are just not cutting it. Take the rainforests for example, which are home to millions of species. One researcher writes that “Despite worldwide attention to the plight of the Amazon rainforest, the deforestation rate appears to be increasing” (Bjornlund 22).
For a habitat that used to cover half of the world’s land surface, we have removed a lot, and so humans have directly caused the extinction of millions of species (Bjornlund 10). Sadly, “…the world’s rainforests could completely vanish in the 100 years at the current rate of deforestation” (Bjornlund 19). There have been several miles of land protected by laws, but it is undoubtedly not enough, for “more than 80 percent of the Earth’s natural forests have already been destroyed,” notes one researcher (Bjornlund 6).
The implications of deforestation have proven to be extremely fatal. For example, the island of Cebu in the Philippines once had ten different bird species, but since logging, only one has survived (Stefoff 61). Rainforests and forests in general are one of the biggest habitats for species. It is noted that “Rainforests cover only two percent of the earth’s surface–but more than half of all the earth’s species of plants and animals are found there,” writes scientist Robert Silverstein (30). The removal of forestry habitats will have devastating effects on our ecosystem.
Not only are our forests hurting, but our oceans habitats suffer as well, namely the coral reefs. 1/5 of reefs have been destroyed, another quarter threatened for imminent collapse, and another quarter said to face long-term damage (Spotts 34). Coral reefs provide food and nourishment for thousands of species. Remove the fish, and remove a major source of our diet. The coral reefs are something that are essential to species because, as the Baha’i International Community points out sea creatures are the predominant form of life on Earth (22).
The problem of extinction is critical because “each ecosystem is a web of interconnections, and a change to one part of the ecosystem is likely to have unforeseen consequences elsewhere” (Stefoff 62). The death and even reduction of one species will almost always result negatively to others. Each species depends on one another for survival. Bees are a good example of this (the species is close to becoming endangered). If bees die out and cannot pollinate plants, vegetation will die, causing herbivores, like cattle, to perish (Daftardar).
Species extinction is a problem that cannot and must not be ignored. The destruction of habitats does not only hurt plants and animals; it hurts us too. It is noted that “with deforestation, water tables fall, land once buffered by woodland becomes more prone to drought, and landslides and flash floods destroy roads, crops, and entire communities” (Bjornlund 12). Although many argue that we need to destroy habitats for the good of our species, it must be understood that “When wildlife species are threatened or wiped out, the whole world loses” (Silverstein 36). We will not only kill other species, but we will eventually kill the human race. This is something we must do not only for other species, but for our own as well.
Habitats are where animals find food, water, shelter, and a place to birth their young (Silverstein 8). They are considered to be forests, wetlands, and even the entire ocean. However, every day, humans strip the world of habitats. One scientist argues that saving species’ homes has gone from something that we should do to something we must do (Bjornlund 8). It is imperative that we act now, and it seems as if we have a lot of work to do.
We have a conspicuous absence of ocean conservationists in politics (Sterne and Wilmot 30). We have climate change deniers in the Senate. If the protection of habitats becomes a major political issue, there is hope. We have politicians that will address these issues (as seen with acts that have previously been passed), but there are not nearly enough of them. This issue is a worldly one.
In terms of deforestation, logging contributes to global climate changes and therefore affects countries thousands of miles away (Bjornlund 14). Protecting habitats must be a topic of conversation in global relations. There must not be a debate, for extinction affects the whole world. Simply put, “protecting the habitats of endangered species is often the key to preserving their lives” (Silverstein 25). To combat the extinction problem, we must preserve and restore habitats. A lot of that can be done on the national level, but the problem can be solved on a personal level as well.
“Many conservation organizations emphasize that the future of [the environment] lies in the hands of regular people,” notes one researcher (Bjornlund 71). We can write to state governors to advise against removing a marsh to build a parking lot. We can start a petition to stop logging in certain areas. We can inform ourselves and the people around us about the problem. Small steps can be taken, and they must be taken, unless the fate of our world is in serious jeopardy.
Habitats are indispensable for species. We can not remove certain areas and expect plants and animals to survive. They are not like humans in the fact that they can live almost anywhere in the world, for “Each species has its own requirements for survival–range of temperature, amount of moisture, kind of food, type of surroundings, and so forth” (Patent 9). The extinction problem is a problem that we cannot ignore. Humans are not only stopping current life forms, but preventing the growth of new ones (Stefoff 103).
Imagine the potential those species could have. New forms of vegetation could have medicinal qualities our world has not yet seen. We have the power to save the future. “Harvard’s E.O.
Wilson calls the current crisis ‘the death of birth,'” writes scientist Rebecca Stefoff (103). Extinction is a problem that has caught the attention of several people, but the issue is still undoubtedly here. There are many aspects of extinction that most do not even realize yet. Although the most notable endangered species being pandas and elephants, smaller species are disappearing each day (Stefoff 20). It has been proven that extinction of both plants and animals will have devastating effects on our world. However, we can fix this problem if we act now.
It only takes self-awareness and the simple ability to care about our future. Every single one of us has millions of lives in our hands. It is simply up to us to decide what to do with them. Works Cited Baha’i International Community. “Human Activities Threaten the World’s Oceans.” Endangered Oceans, edited by Louise I.
Gerdes, Greenhaven Press, 2009, pp. 21-27. Bjornlund, Lydia. Deforestation. Reference Point Press, 2010. Daftardar, Ishan.
“Why Bee Extinction Would Mean the End of Humanity.” Science ABC, 3 Nov. 2016, www.scienceabc.com/nature/bee-extinction-means-end-humanity.
html. Macintyre, Ben. “The Commercial Whaling Ban Is Necessary to Protect Endangered Species.” Endangered Oceans, edited by Louise I. Gerdes, Greenhaven Press, 2009, pp. 177-181.
Patent, Dorothy Hinshaw. Habitats: Saving Wild Places. Enslow Publishers, Inc, 1993. Silverstein, Robert. Saving Endangered Animals. Enslow Publishers, Inc, 1993.
Spotts, Peter N. “Loss of Coral Reefs Threatens the World’s Oceans.” Endangered Oceans, edited by Louise I. Gerdes, Greenhaven Press, 2009, pp. 33-39.
Stefoff, Rebecca. Extinction. Chelsea House Publishers, 1992. Sterne, Jack and David Wilmot. “The Threat to the World’s Oceans Can Be Overcome.” Endangered Oceans, edited by Louise I.
Gerdes, Greenhaven Press, 2009, pp. 28-32.