Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Bad times for the world's animals

The International Union for the Conservation of Animals (IUCA) released some very disturbing findings today. The IUCA keeps a "Red List" of 25,000 species of threatened animals. Of those animals, a fifth of all of them - mammals, amphibians, birds, reptiles and fish - face extinction. Scientists have referred to his potentially gigantic wave of extinctions as the "Sixth Mass Extinction." In its four billion year history, Earth has witnessed five other mass extinctions. The last one wiped out the dinosaurs 65 million years ago. As the Guardian notes:

The Evolution Lost report, published in the journal Science by more than 100 of the world's leading zoologists and botanists, found that populations of mammal, bird, reptile, amphibian and fish species had declined by an average of 30% in the past 40 years.

Threatened animals include tigers, Tasmanian devils, blue whales, mountain gorillas and Galapagos tortoises, to name a few.

Is there any hope? Yes, says the report from the IUCA, but it will involve extensive conservation efforts around the world. If those efforts to not begin, the waves of extinctions will take a catastrophic toll. The paper commends governments, organizations and individuals who are leading the way in conservation and showing that good people - taking dramatic steps - can make a difference.

Professor John Baillie, director of Conservation Programs at the Zoological of London, explained, "This paper is proof that conservation is working. Now we have to match the unprecedented threats faced by the natural world." (Source.)

It is important to point out that rampant "free market" globalization, with minimal regulation - of the sort we've seen for the past twenty years - is taking a ghastly toll on the globe's animal population. The "free market" has never been very free when it comes to the world's most vulnerable beings, whether we're talking about people living in poverty or animals in crisis. It's worth quoting the above-mentioned Guardian article one more time in this regard:
The co-author of his paper, Paul Leadley of University Paris-Sud, France, said the trends demanded radical change. "There is no question that business-as-usual development pathways will lead to catastrophic biodiversity loss. Even optimistic scenarios for this century consistently predict extinctions and shrinking populations of many species."
That "radical change" is probably going to enrage the Captains of Globalization, and it will likely meet great resistance. But if human beings are going to redeem themselves, Step One entails rising above our long and pathetic history of unrestrained and unregulated greed, and making concrete and dramatic plans to save animals instead of destroy them.

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