Humans Wiped Out Two-Thirds of the World’s Wildlife in 50 Years | Smart News | Smithsonian Magazine

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Threats to global biodiversity are also threats to humans, experts warn

A cloud of smoke rises on the right over a rainforest treetops, with one tall tree illuminated from behind by the sun, and smoke. Hints of blue sky to the left
Smoke rises from a fire in the Amazon rainforest, south of Novo Progresso in the Para state, Brazil. (Photo by CARL DE SOUZA / AFP / Getty Images)
SMITHSONIANMAG.COM
“Two major reports released this month paint a grim portrait of the future for our planet’s wildlife. First, the Living Planet Report from the World Wildlife Fund (WWF), published last week, found that in half a century, human activity has decimated global wildlife populations by an average of 68 percent.

The study analyzed population sizes of 4,392 monitored species of mammals, fish, birds, reptiles, and amphibians from 1970 to 2016, reports Karin Brulliard for the Washington Post. It found that populations in Latin America and the Caribbean fared the worst, with a staggering 94 percent decline in population. All told, the drastic species decline tracked in this study “signal a fundamentally broken relationship between humans and the natural world,” the WWF notes in a release.

Source: Humans Wiped Out Two-Thirds of the World’s Wildlife in 50 Years | Smart News | Smithsonian Magazine

Global Warming Is Driving Polar Bears Toward Extinction, Researchers Say – By Henry Fountain – The New York Times

“Polar bears could become nearly extinct by the end of the century as a result of shrinking sea ice in the Arctic if global warming continues unabated, scientists said Monday.

Nearly all of the 19 subpopulations of polar bears, from the Beaufort Sea off Alaska to the Siberian Arctic, would face being wiped out because the loss of sea ice would force the animals onto land and away from their food supplies for longer periods, the researchers said. Prolonged fasting, and reduced nursing of cubs by mothers, would lead to rapid declines in reproduction and survival.

“There is very little chance that polar bears would persist anywhere in the world, except perhaps in the very high Arctic in one small subpopulation” if greenhouse-gas emissions continue at so-called business-as-usual levels, said Peter K. Molnar, a researcher at the University of Toronto Scarborough and lead author of the study, which was published Monday in the journal Nature Climate Change.

Even if emissions were reduced to more moderate levels, “we still are unfortunately going to lose some, especially some of the southernmost populations, to sea-ice loss,” Dr. Molnar said.”

The Return of the Platypuses – The New York Times

Photographs by 

Text by 

“Sarah May, watching, marveled at its glossy coat and the smoothness of its movement. It was like a Slinky, she said: “It almost poured over the ground.” The platypus reached the still pond, slid in, and was gone. Dr. May had been anticipating this moment for months, but now that it had arrived, she found herself surprised at just how deeply moved she felt.

The glossy platypus, along with two others, arrived at Tidbinbilla Nature Reserve, a 45-minute drive from the Australian capital of Canberra, on April 30. They had been away for four months, sheltering at a zoo in Sydney. The cold, wet and windy day of their release could not have been more different from the day in late December when they had left the reserve.

Back then, Tidbinbilla was parched from extreme heat and drought and menaced by an approaching bush fire. Dr. May, the wildlife team leader for the reserve, and her crew were working long hours in thick smoke, trying to protect their lungs with face masks, their eyes red and burning. It was a grim and apocalyptic-feeling time, she said: “Fires had taken over everybody’s psyche.” But the team worried most about their animal charges, the rare, endangered and iconic wildlife that make the reserve their home.”

Opinion | The Earth Is Just as Alive as You Are – By Ferris Jabr – The New York Times

By 

Mr. Jabr is a science writer.

Credit…JooHee Yoon

“Every year the nearly 400 billion trees in the Amazon rain forest and all the creatures that depend on them are drenched in seven feet of rain — four times the annual rainfall in London. This deluge is partly due to geographical serendipity. Intense equatorial sunlight speeds the evaporation of water from sea and land to sky, trade winds bring moisture from the ocean, and bordering mountains force incoming air to rise, cool and condense. Rain forests happen where it happens to rain.

But that’s only half the story. Life in the Amazon does not simply receive rain — it summons it. All of that lush vegetation releases 20 billion tons of water vapor into the sky every day. Trees saturate the air with gaseous compounds and salts. Fungi exhale plumes of spores. The wind sweeps bacteria, pollen, leaf fragments and bits of insect shells into the atmosphere. The wet breath of the forest, peppered with microbes and organic residues, creates ideal conditions for rain. With so much water in the air and so many minute particles on which the water can condense, rain clouds quickly form.

The Amazon sustains much more than itself, however. Forests are vital pumps of Earth’s circulatory system. All of the water that gushes upward from the Amazon forms an enormous flying river, which brings precipitation to farms and cities throughout South America. Some scientists have concluded that through long-range atmospheric ripple effects the Amazon contributes to rainfall in places as far away as Canada.

The Amazon’s rain ritual is just one of the many astonishing ways in which living creatures transform their environments and the planet as a whole. Much of this ecology has only recently been discovered or understood. We now have compelling evidence that microbes are involved in numerous geological processes; some scientists think they played a role in forming the continents.”

David Lindsay: Amen. Go read the entire piece by Ferris Jabr.  Here are a few of the NYT comments I admired:

Socrates
Downtown Verona. NJ

Human ignorance and conceit are the enemies of the Earth, and those who stoke it and aid and abet such ignorance and conceit are effectively planetary assisted-suiciders. The solutions to preserving our environment are contraception, education, solar-wind-tidal-hydro-geothermal-alternative energies and human consciousness. One of the most prominent destructive mentalities today is Christian dominionism in which the God of Genesis grants humanity “dominion” over the Earth. “Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth, and subdue it: and have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over every living thing that moveth upon the earth.” More destructive words have never been written. We owe it to our fellow man, woman and child to wipe destructive religious, authoritarian, and environmental ignorance off the face of the political map and to do our human best to respect, cherish and honor Mother Earth. Anything less is conceding defeat to the plague of human Know-Nothingism and an authoritarian black hole of ignorance and destruction.

157 Recommended

 
Steves Weave – Green Classifieds commented April 21, 2019

Steves Weave – Green Classifieds

Right now, Gaia is talking. You don’t have to listen hard. And she is saying: Vote Democrat!

149 Recommended

 
joyce commented April 20, 2019

joyce

The earth is alive and it is our only home. Humans have evolved from the earth and the earth has formed us right down to the metabolic level. Most of the wildlife on the earth is still in balance with the earth, their lives are dependent upon finding everything they need on the earth using the gifts they have in their bodies. Their lives are tenuous, but they are not harming the earth in any large degree. Humans have learned to stabilize their lives by using their evolved technology as a protection. This has enabled them to grow out of balance with the earth and also enabled them to cause great harm in the process. Humans know the processes that cause global warming and understand what has to happen to reverse it,but politics and money and status quo interfere. We have gone so far away from the basic processes of the earth that we have a hard time thinking that we can go back. But we know what to do, we need to stop using fossil fuels. The oil industry needs to embrace renewable energy and the jobs that come with it. We all need to think about renewable energy, reusable technology, and a society that does not build things for the sole purpose of more money. As the climate becomes more unstable this earth is beginning to wipe us off the planet. We are not going to escape the natural law that everything that survives on earth remains in balance with the earth. The window is closing for us to help rebalance the earth we have vandalized. It is now or never.

132 Recommended

This Carnivorous Plant Invaded New York. That May Be Its Only Hope. – The New York Times

By 

“Across their kayaks, the three men passed the green shoot back and forth. Occasionally, one of them would cradle it in one palm and bring a hand lens to it with the other, inspecting the carnivorous plant that was their bounty.

By day’s end, the group — Seth Cunningham and Michael Tessler, biologists at the American Museum of Natural History, and John Thompson, coordinator of the Catskill Regional Invasive Species Partnership — filled eight vials with the plant, Aldrovanda vesiculosa, also known as the waterwheel.

The plant shouldn’t be in this small, privately owned pond in Orange County, N.Y., and it presents an ecological conundrum.

Around the world, the waterwheel is going extinct. But from summer through late fall, the carnivorous, rootless, wetland-loving plant is plentiful in this swampy body of water near the Catskill Mountains.”

Opinion | Surviving Despair in the Great Extinction – By Margaret Renkl – The New York Times

“. . .  Last week, the United Nations released the summary of an enormous report that broke my heart in more ways than any backyard-nature observations ever have. The Times article about the report, “Humans Are Speeding Extinction and Altering the Natural World at an ‘Unprecedented’ Pace,” called it “the most exhaustive look yet at the decline in biodiversity across the globe and the dangers that creates for human civilization.” The story opens with the picture of an olive ridley sea turtle washed up on an Indian beach. The turtle is dead, apparently strangled: Fishing rope is looped around its neck, cutting into its throat.

Image.

Fishing nets and ropes are a deadly hazard for olive ridley sea turtles.CreditSoren Andersson/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

If the photo is traumatizing, the story is worse. Because of human activity — both direct activity, like fishing and farming, and indirect activity, like the fossil fuels that accelerate climate change — up to one million species of plants and animals are headed for extinction if we don’t take immediate measures to halt the devastation.

That’s one million species. Every individual creature in a species — times one million. We can’t possibly conceive of such a thing. We can hold in mind, however uncomfortably, the image of a single animal who died a terrible death. Devastation on this scale is beyond the reach of imagination. How could we hold in mind a destruction so vast it would take not just one sea turtle but all that animal’s kind, as well as all the kind of 999,999 other species?

Whole expanses of the natural world are disappearing. It’s not just poster animals like polar bears, tigers and elephants; it’s life on earth as we know it.”

David Lindsay:

Thank you Margaret Renkl.  Here is one of several comments I admired. In this one, it is the quote of the Talmud that I value most.

Susan
Delaware, OH

In his iconic essay, The Starthrower, Loren Eiseley gives us reason to keep up the fight against impossible odds. Eiseley describes going to Costabel Spain and sees a figure on the beach repeatedly picking up starfish stranded on the beach by the receding tide and throwing them back into the water that they might live. The cynical Eiseley tries to explain to the starthrower that his task is hopeless. There are too many starfish to make a difference. But the starthrower proclaims “It makes a difference to this one.” as he returns it to the mother sea. In that moment, Eiseley realizes that it wasn’t starfish so much as men the thrower sought to save and there was something holy about reaching out a hand in pity across the gulf of evolution that separates mankind and starfish. The Talmud says: Do not be daunted by the enormity of the world’s grief. Do justly now. Love mercy now. Walk humbly now. You are not obligated to complete the work but neither are you free to abandon it. Ms. Renkl’s essay is a good down payment on the task.

10 Replies306 Recommended

Opinion | Life as We Know It – The New York Times Editorial

By The Editorial Board

The editorial board represents the opinions of the board, its editor and the publisher. It is separate from the newsroom and the Op-Ed section.

CreditIllustrations by Yann Kebbi

“Our planet has suffered five mass extinctions, the last of which occurred about 66 million years ago, when a giant asteroid believed to have landed near the Yucatán Peninsula set off a chain reaction that wiped out the dinosaurs and roughly three-quarters of the other species on earth. A few years ago, in a book called “The Sixth Extinction,” the writer Elizabeth Kolbert warned of a devastating sequel, with plant and animal species on land and sea already disappearing at a ferocious clip, their habitats destroyed or diminished by human activities.

This time, she made clear, the asteroid is us — and we will pay heavily for our folly.

Humanity’s culpability in what many scientists believe to be a planetary emergency has now been reaffirmed by a detailed and depressing report compiled by hundreds of international experts and based on thousands of scientific studies. A summary was released last Monday in Paris, and the full 1,500-page report will be available later in the year. Its findings are grim. “Biodiversity” — a word encompassing all living flora and fauna — “is declining faster than at any time in human history,” it says, estimating that “around 1 million species already face extinction, many within decades,” unless the world takes transformative action to save natural systems. The at-risk population includes a half-million land-based species and one-third of marine mammals and corals.

Most of the causes of this carnage seem familiar: logging, poaching, overfishing by large industrial fleets, pollution, invasive species, the spread of roads and cities to accommodate an exploding global population, now seven billion and rising. If there is one alpha culprit, it is the clearing of forests and wetlands for farms to feed all those people (and, perversely, to help them get to work: The destruction of Indonesia’s valuable rain forests, and their replacement with palm oil plantations, has been driven in part by Europe’s boundless appetite for biodiesel fuels.)

Add to all this a relatively new threat: Global warming, driven largely by the burning of fossil fuels, is expected to compound the damage. “While climate change has not been the dominant driver of biodiversity loss to date in most parts of the world, it is projected to become as or more important,” said Sir Robert Watson, chairman of the biodiversity panel and former chairman of the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, whose most recent alarming report on global warming has given that issue new currency in American politics. Rising seas and increased extreme weather events propelled in part by climate change — fire, floods, droughts — have already harmed many species. The most obvious victim is the world’s coral reefs, which have suffered grievously from ocean waters that have grown warmer and more acidic as a result of all the carbon dioxide they’ve been asked to absorb.”

Extinction threatens one million species because of humans’ warns UN report – CNN

(CNN)One million of the planet’s eight million species are threatened with extinction by humans, scientists warned Monday in what is described as the most comprehensive assessment of global nature loss ever.

Their landmark report paints a bleak picture of a planet ravaged by an ever-growing human population, whose insatiable consumption is destroying the natural world.
The global rate of species extinction “is already tens to hundreds of times higher than it has been, on average, over the last 10 million years,” according to the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES), a UN committee, whose report was written by 145 experts from 50 countries.

Source: Extinction threatens one million species because of humans’ warns UN report – CNN

Watching ‘Our Planet,’ Where the Predator Is Us – The New York Times

“One of the hallmarks of a past generation’s nature documentaries was the animal-in-peril scene: the cub hunted by the jungle cat, the fledgling teetering at the edge of its nest.

It was like the terror of a thrill-park ride, one that usually came with the implicit knowledge of safeguards and constraints. In the end, the adorable creature would survive. This was the compact. The animal that you liked would be O.K. After all, this was TV.

There is one of those scenes in the second episode of “Our Planet,” the remarkable docu-series on Netflix. But now the compact is gone. A teeming colony of walruses is crammed at the edge of eighty-meter cliffs along the coast of Russia, where climate change has melted away the sea ice. Not evolved to navigating the precarious surfaces, one walrus falls, and another, and another, their massive bodies slamming onto the rocky beach.

They do not, most of them, get up and shake it off. Their broken bodies litter the shore. This is the resounding message of “Our Planet”: It will not, necessarily, be O.K. And humans — the unpictured but omnipresent part of “our” in “Our Planet” — are the reason.”

Our Planet review – Attenborough’s first act as an eco-warrior | Television & radio | The Guardian

David Lindsay:  This March and April. Kathleen Schomaker and I performed our new Folk Concert: Climate Change and the Sixth Extinction, in three different house concerts, to share our work and get feedback.
   Our efforts at educating neighbors and friends were somewhat eclipsed by this eight show series about the environment, called, Our Planet, produced and served up by Netflix. I urge everyone to view these shows.
Here is a review from The Guardian.
Spectacular ... A dust storm blows over a colony of socotra cormorants endangering their chicks.

“It looks as spectacular as you would expect. Vast aerial sweeps across the Peruvian coast as millions of cormorants and boobies gather to feast on anchovies and breed, or across frozen tundra to watch herds of caribou head for the shelter of the forest in temperatures 40 degrees below freezing take your breath away. Then it catches in your throat, as you watch an orchid bee, in search of perfume to attract a mate, fall into a flower’s buckety petal and squeeze out of a tiny tunnel that deposits two sacks of pollen on its back; just as God, or a million years of evolutionary adjustments, intended. On every scale, it is amazing. You can only boggle at the endless precision of the natural world, and of the people who devote themselves to capturing its wonders.

This is Netflix’s first foray into nature programming – Our Planet, an eight-part, multimillion-dollar series, filmed by more than 600 crew members over four years in 50 countries and narrated by our very own David Attenborough. Produced largely by the team behind the BBC’s Planet Earth and Blue Planet, it looks very much like what they might have done next for Auntie if the Natural History Unit had given them their druthers (and Netflix’s budget). As with Planet Earth, it takes a different landscape every episode and fills the screen with incredible scenes. Lesser flamingos building mud mounds for their eggs and hatching thousands of chicks in unison. Eagles in combat in the air. Three of the 60 species of manakin birds doing their mating dances, each more jaw-droppingly complex than the last. The routine from the blue manakin – which involves four birds who practise beforehand, with a juvenile male standing in for the prospective lady – will have you revising your own sexual decision-making. You’ll not be charmed by a pint and a compliment again, I assure you.”

Source: Our Planet review – Attenborough’s first act as an eco-warrior | Television & radio | The Guardian

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