Sunday, May 02, 2021

The Hardest Choices Require The Strongest Wills

scitechdaily |  In a paper published today (January 13, 2021) in the journal Frontiers in Conservation Science, the researchers cite more than 150 scientific studies and conclude, “That we are already on the path of a sixth major extinction is now scientifically undeniable.”

Among the paper’s co-authors is Daniel Blumstein, a UCLA professor of ecology and evolutionary biology and member of the UCLA Institute of the Environment and Sustainability.

Because too many people have underestimated the severity of the crisis and have ignored experts’ warnings, scientists must continue speaking out, said Blumstein, author of the 2020 book “The Nature of Fear: Survival Lessons from the Wild” — but they also must avoid either sugarcoating the overwhelming challenges or inducing feelings of despair.

“Without fully appreciating and broadcasting the scale of the problems and the enormity of the solutions required, society will fail to achieve even modest sustainability goals, and catastrophe will surely follow,” he said. “What we are saying is frightening, but we must be both candid and vocal if humanity is to understand the enormity of the challenges we face in creating a sustainable future.”

The Earth has experienced five mass extinctions, each accounting for a loss of more than 70% of all species on the planet. The most recent was 66 million years ago. Now, the paper reports, projected temperature increases and other human assaults on the environment mean that approximately 1 million of the planet’s 7 million to 10 million species are threatened with extinction in the coming decades.

Blumstein said that level of damage could occur within the next several decades; an extinction affecting as many as 70% of all species — like the earlier mass extinctions cited in the paper — could potentially occur within the next few centuries.

One of the major trends discussed in the paper is the explosive growth of the planet’s human population. There are now 7.8 billion people, more than double the Earth’s population just 50 years ago. And by 2050, the figure is likely to reach 10 billion, the scientists write, which would cause or exacerbate numerous serious problems. For example, more than 700 million people are starving and more than 1 billion are malnourished already; both figures are likely to increase as the population grows.

Population growth also greatly increases the risk for pandemics, the authors write, because most new infectious diseases result from human–animal interactions, humans live closer to wild animals than ever before and wildlife trade is continuing to increase significantly. Population growth also contributes to rising unemployment and, when combined with a hotter Earth, leads to more frequent and intense flooding and fires, poorer water and air quality, and worsening human health.