Losing the World

Apr 132004
Authors: Meg Burd

Hundreds of animal species are critically endangered. The vital

rainforests in the Amazon are being rapidly depleted by

industrialized companies. A national park in Peru is being

threatened by fossil fuel drilling and the lasting impact of a U.S.

fueled drug trade. Unique animals such as the Arctic fox are being

threatened by human created pollution and habitat destruction.

With Earth Day fast approaching, examining situations such as

these in the world around us and our impact on bio-diversity should

be a pressing concern on all our minds. With recent alarming news

about the increase in environmental degradation due to modern human

activity, a look at the behaviors and trends that are resulting in

such devastating impacts on the world’s plant and animal

populations should be closely examined and potential areas of

change should be identified.

In two disturbing reports issued recently in the magazines,

Nature and Science, animal populations around the world were found

to be in ever-increasing danger. Examining both protected spaces

(which constitute roughly 11.5 percent of the Earth’s surface) and

unprotected areas, the Nature study found that nearly 300

critically endangered species groups have no conservation


Without protection, the World Conservation Union predicts, these

species have a 50 percent probability of extinction within the next

10 years. Particularly vulnerable, the report says, are countries

where little money is available to fund conservation efforts. The

depletion of species, however, is definitely not limited to

non-industrialized nations.

The Science report examining species depletion in the United

Kingdom serves to emphasize these tragic findings, showing that

bird, plant and insect species have headed into crisis in the last

40 years, as Paul Rincon of the BBC reports.

Finding that 71 percent of the butterfly population had

decreased over the last 20 years and 54 percent of the bird and 28

percent of the plant populations decreasing over the last 40, the

report largely blames habitat loss due to human land use,

industrial pollution, fossil fuel emissions and nitrogen from

fertilizers in the UK area. Modernity and rapid over-consumption

and use of polluting fuels and chemicals, it seems, are destroying

the variety of life globally.

This trend is replicated in Northeast Asia as well, with Ravi

Sawhney of the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for

Asian and the Pacific saying that “the rich biological diversity of

the North-East Asian sub-region is under serious threat.” With over

1,200 plant and animal species (such as the Arctic fox, found only

in the Russian arctic region) threatened by looming extinction, the

UN commission finds that much of the depletion of the unique

species found in this arctic area are being swiftly eradicated by

human activities such as over-hunting, pollution of the air and


This saddening list of threats to the world’s biodiversity could

go on and on, examining places such as the Amazon where about 9,170

square miles of forest were lost in 2003 due mostly to commercial

logging, drilling, and cattle and crop farming, or the threat of

the Cordillera Azul national park in Peru by oil drilling in the

area, or even the habitat losses and pollution related death of

many animals right here in America. With this devastating pattern

of loss, attention must be paid and action must be taken to attempt

to stop the wave of destruction.

In areas all over the world, we in the industrialized world

should regulate ourselves, setting limits on exploitative,

destructive and large-scale projects that serve to deplete

bio-diversity, pollute environments, oppress local people

economically and destroy the global environment. Likewise,

conservation projects should work with local populations to see

that indigenous self-determination and even management strategies

might be incorporated into dynamic, workable conservation plans

that do not marginalize anyone and allow for local investment in

the environment.

I know I myself am seriously guilty of over-exploiting many

resources, and just as many Americans, I need to reevaluate my

reliance on products that result in serious pollution and waste.

Perhaps if we all start on an individual and local level, we can

all foster positive change and see that recognition of the need for

sustainable growth should not just come on Earth Day, but be

acknowledged year round.

Meg is a graduate student at CSU. Her column appears every


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