Climate change as a topic has been discussed time and again on various platforms for a while now. But, it seems like the ones who are aware of it keep updating themselves, while the vast majority overlook the pressing dangers to the environment and, in turn, themselves.
A recent report by the conservationist group WWF highlights a 68% average decline of birds, amphibians, mammals, fish, and reptiles since 1970. The reasons attributed to the rapid decline are the burning of forests, over-fishing in seas and oceans, and the destruction of wildlife habitat.
The reports add further impetus to some scientific claims of the Earth on the verge of its sixth mass extinction. Mass extinction is the loss of about three-quarters of all wildlife species in existence across the entire Earth over a geological period (<2.8 million years).
While the five previous mass extinctions were natural phenomenon that took place before the arrival of the first humans, the present catastrophe is induced, experienced, and recorded by humans. This human-induced destruction of the environment and wildlife has gradual yet long-lasting effects on the ecosystems and the humans who are a part of it. The ecosystem is a complex network of interacting organisms formed over millions of years of evolution, and a loss of interaction among species could create imbalances in the system.
A classic example is the hunting of wolves in the Yellowstone National Park. Hunting the wolves to extinction by 1930 dramatically increased the elk and deer population. The increase in their population led to unsustainable grazing of the streamline aspens and willows, in turn leading to soil erosion and affecting the songbirds. The decline in songbirds increased the mosquitoes and other insects. However, the reintroduction of wolves in 1995 balanced the elk and deer populations and restored the plant and animal life in Yellowstone.
The extinction of wildlife and plant vegetation does not only affect the floral and faunal ecosystem. It also has a negative cascading effect on humans.
- Three-quarters of the world’s food crops depend (partially or completely) on pollination and seed dispersals by insects and animals. Fruits and vegetables, vital to human consumption, depends on this natural process. However, the significant drop in the population of bees, fruit bats, and elephants has resulted in the extinction of various plant species and a reduction in food crops and fruits.
- Forests act as climate regulators by absorbing carbon dioxide, thus facilitating carbon sequestration. The destruction of forests results in increased carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, perpetrating climatic changes, and global warming.
- The destruction of habitat reduces the plant diversity and aids monoculture, resulting in increased pests and fungal plants.
Climate change and biodiversity loss are a stinging reality that has been depreciating at a faster rate than imagined. While the loss of wildlife and the environment seems irreversible, hope remains. Nature has shown marvelous recovery rates in the absence of human interference and diligent conservation efforts. The Chernobyl nuclear plant, uninhabitable to humans due to the radioactive atmosphere, has thrived with plants, trees, deers, and wolves. The conservation efforts to save tigers and rhinos in India has raised awareness and witnessed a massive rise in the population of these endangered animals.
While civil society and conservation groups have helped the environment from the bottom-up, the realm of environment requires measures from a top-down political approach. It is necessary to mainstream environmental issues and politically securitize them. However, it would depend on the general population to rise beyond the petty politics of hatred and look beyond the non-existent security threat to coerce governments to adopt a green stance.