By David Robinson (August 8, 2022)
We are accustomed to reading about endangered giraffes, wolves, grizzly bears, orcas, and other species. But we’ve also learned that oak trees and seaweed are in danger.
According to the IUCN Red List, an estimated 31 percent of the world’s oak trees are threatened with extinction. Deforestation for agriculture and cooking fuel uses are the prime causes.
Seaweed plays a critical role in marine ecosystems, providing habitats and food for various fish species. Dredging, rising sea temperatures, and coastal infrastructure construction have contributed to its decline.
A recent United Nations study stated that “The current biodiversity crisis will be exacerbated, with catastrophic results for humanity,” unless we interact with nature in a more sustainable way. “Sustainable use is when biodiversity and ecosystem functioning are maintained while contributing to human well-being,” said Susan Gardner, Director of the Ecosystems Division at the United Nations Environment programme (UNEP). “By continuing to use these resources unsustainably, we are not just risking the loss and damage of these species’ populations; we are affecting our own health and well-being and that of the next generation.”
Of course, we should be concerned about the biodiversity crisis because of the ongoing threats to vulnerable plant and animal species. They deserve our protection. Period. But humans are often selfish when asked to change their behavior, such as altering our consumption habits. (“How much extra will it cost me?”) Perhaps the threat to our health and well-being will push more of us in the right direction.
Cynics will stress that it’s too little, too late. The damage has been done. We’ve ignored the many warning signs and are paying a significant price.
However, there’s always time to take corrective action. Commit to endangered species conservation on local, national, and worldwide levels. Support the Endangered Species Act. Sign petitions and demand our Congressional representatives take a stand. Do whatever is possible to make a difference.
It’s never too late. Until it is.