Living to exploit may drive all to extinction

I am writing regarding the ever-increasing extinction rates and the ecological importance these [lost] species, as well as others, have to their unique habitat.

We currently live in an environment driven by the economy: What value or use do natural resources have to me or to other humans? Very little will stop us from trying to attain and control these resources. While our economy depends on and is driven by our exploitation of the environment, we often forget about what life would be like without these resources. How will our own existence continue once we have polluted all our waterways, cut our last tree, or pulled all the oil we can from the earth? One system depends upon another for its continued existence, and humans are no different.

By mindlessly clear-cutting in a wetland, you remove that system’s ability to filter pollutants. This pollution is instead able to reach streams, not only poisoning our waterways, but in turn poisoning the birds, deer and other terrestrial animals that use these streams and wetlands as a source of food and water. If this chain of events continues unabated, we will eventually face grave consequences—not only for the environment but also for humans.

We are currently headed for, or are in the midst of, the sixth greatest extinction event in the history of the Earth. Yes, extinction rates are a part of history, but the rate at which plants and animals are going extinct is alarming, and humans are the primary cause. So why should we care when, since the 1600s, humans have helped drive some 129 species of birds, 83 species of mammals, 21 species of reptiles, seven
species of amphibians, and in North America alone 40 species of freshwater fish to extinction? The question should be: How could we not care? Extinction rates are currently estimated at 33 to 333 times the background extinction rates. If we continue to live and exploit nature, we will not only drive other organisms to extinction, but also the human race.

I believe taking the anthropogenic approach is one of the few ways to force people to take a good look at their current lifestyle and hopefully make large changes toward a more sustainable environment—one that will benefit both the natural world and humans. We are not separate from nature. We need to stop trying to separate ourselves from the natural world and become a caring part of the environment once again.

— Annie DuBois

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