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The Missouri Miner

Missouri S&T's Student Newspaper
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EST. 1915

To Face Extinction

Mary Rommer

In a draft of the U.N. report obtained by the Agence France Presse and scheduled for release on May 6th, 2019, a forty-four-page Summary for Policy Makers condenses the main points of 1800 pages of scientific reports which the U.N. has obtained regarding the current condition of nature.

U.N. studies concluded that nearly one million plant and animal species of the eight million scientifically recognized are facing or are projected to face extinction within the upcoming decades due to ever increasing deforestation, air pollution, water pollution, poaching and general overconsumption of natural resources. This number is equivalent to twenty percent of known plant and animal species, which is hundreds of times larger than extinction percentages over the last ten million years according to the Agence France Presse. Insects, making up a large number of species, are currently the most notably impacted which becomes a dire situation when we consider that seventy-five percent of foods worldwide rely on pollination by various insects. Following this fact, the first humans to be affected by extinction will be indigenous peoples, third world nations, and poor communities unable to to provide enough food under current conditions.

The studies also make direct links between the largest losses of plant and animal life and the sources creating losses. The most impactful is deforestation and urbanization which decrease habitat acreage, followed by poaching and black-market trade of body parts, changing climate, and finally pollution, but all of these issues are indirectly driven by one all-encompassing issue: population growth, which means more consumption of natural resources and increased waste. The Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES) has already warned that the rate of species extinction on a global scale is increasing rapidly and expected to continue. Many experts even consider this to be another mass extinction event. If we truly are seeing a mass extinction event then we are now observing only the sixth to occur in over half a billion years, the last one being sixty-six million years ago at the end of the Cretaceous period when an asteroid struck Earth and killed most of Earth’s living organisms.

Plant and animal species are not all that mankind has altered. The U.N. report draft stated that seventy five percent of land and almost fifty percent of marine environments and inland water such as rivers and streams, have been reprehensibly altered by mankind in only the previous fifty years. The global thermometer has risen by one degree Celsius in contrast to levels measure in the 19th century, an amount which U.N. climate reports claim is enough to increase the intensity and occurrence of heatwaves, floods, hurricanes, droughts, and other storms associated with climate change. Scientists predict that changes to species count will double the present rate for another half degree Celsius jump. In essence, for life as we know it to progress or even to continue as it is, drastic changes must be made to mankind’s interaction with the Earth and with no time wasted. Even then, the question as to whether the changes society is willing to make will be enough to salvage our comfortable lives.


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