The Cable

It’s World Wildlife Day and We’re All Not So Slowly Dying

Observe the day by reflecting that we’re all inching closer toward mass extinction.

elephants

The good news: It’s World Wildlife Day, a time to reflect on and celebrate the diversity of the natural world.

The bad news: We’re quickly killing that diverse wildlife off.

There’s one male northern white rhino left in the world. The African elephant population decreased 20 percent in the last decade. And, oh, some scientists believe Earth should now be considered a “toxic planet,” so poisoned is the planet through human-made chemical emissions. For example, “The mercury found in the fish we eat, and in polar bears in the Arctic, is fallout from the burning of coal and increases every year,” according to Julian Cribb, author of “Surviving the 21st Century.”

But it’s not just that food chains and water sources are riddled with toxins. It’s also that we’re killing off half of all species.

“The living fabric of the world is slipping through our fingers without our showing much sign of caring,” according to organizers of this week’s Biological Extinction conference. The 20 percent of Earth’s species that is currently facing extinction will rise to 50 percent by the end of the century unless urgent action is taken. But that shouldn’t be an issue, since the one thing humanity has proven good at of late is coming together to act decisively against their short-term interest in the long-term interests of the planet.

There are, of course, some bright spots for conservationists, and also anyone remotely concerned with whether humans will annihilate half of the world’s species. Pope Francis considers preventing mass extinction an issue of high concern for the Catholic church. China announced a ban on the ivory trade by the end of 2017 — and since China has the biggest ivory market in the world, that should cut back on poaching. And if the United Nations is to be believed, engaged young people are yet another potential bright spot.

If the endangered critters last long enough for them to make a difference. U.N. Deputy Secretary-General Amina J. Mohammed, former minister of environment of Nigeria, noted that the world has lost as much as half of its wild animals and plants in the past four decades. She also said that “The illegal trade in wildlife and wildlife products, including elephant ivory, high-value timber and marine species, is a threat not only to sustainable development but to peace and security.”

So, go out and enjoy World Wildlife Day. It’s later than you think.

Photo credit: TONY KARUMBA/AFP/Getty Images

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