Humans leave a big footprint on the Earth, and we crush thousands of other species wherever we step. According to a UN report, an estimated one million species — one-eighth of the total — are under threat of extinction, thanks to human action. Our ingenuity has caused massive damage, but we can use that same ingenuity to avert a cataclysm.
Nature might seem like just that growing and crawling stuff outside our windows, but it’s a global interconnected system that sustains life, including our lives.
“Nature is essential for human existence and good quality of life,” the report said.
A particular plant or insect or bird or fish might seem insignificant, but each is a part of a complex web. The loss of one can have unforeseen consequences.
Consider that three-quarters of the world’s food crops require pollination, and the populations of pollinators around the world — not just bees — are falling at alarming rates.
“You destroy nature and it’s going to bite you back,” Duke University ecologist Stuart Pimm told the Associated Press.
It’s not simply the number of plants and animals that matter, but the diversity of species. Each plays a role to make the web stronger. The fewer the varieties of living things, the more vulnerable the remaining ones become.
There is time to heed the warning. We have done it before, as when we took on acid rain and ozone-depleting chemicals.
This is a bigger and more complicated challenge, but it is one we can meet if we take it seriously.