The Face of Tomorrow's Planet

February 24, 2011
For as long as human memory extends, and even before that, we have lived surrounded by a diversity of other creatures. At least until recently, now humans live everywhere on earth leaving little space for every other creature. We were once surrounded by them now they are surrounded by us, isolated to small locations around the world that are continuously shrinking. Humans have hunted them for sport, for profit and for food. Many species that were once abundant are now in threat of going extinct or already are extinct. We have caused these species to decline and so it is our responsibility to do everything possible to save them.
Ecosystems are what keep the world going. Once you lose a species from an ecosystem it can never be replaced completely and the ecosystem will be weaker for it. Though extinction is a natural process scientists say that in the past century alone the rate of species that are facing extinction has raised exponentially due to human activity. Would you want to live in a world where cities never end? With no birds flying overhead, or small critters scuttling through the underbrush, or the leaves whispering with the wind, a place with only buildings and paved streets for as far as the eye can see? This is what our world may become if we don’t do something to save our ecosystems and the creatures that live in them.

Now I know what many of you are thinking, how did we cause this? After all, species have gone extinct before. Look at what happened to the dinosaurs. How is this any different? In his book Life in the Balance: Humanity and the Biodiversity Crisis, Niles Eldredge states that we are losing approximately 30,000 species per year. This has grown exponentially from before 1800 where we would cause one species to go extinct every 55 years roughly and in 1800 and 1900 where we would cause a species to die out about every year and a half. This increase in extinction rates is directly linked to destruction of habitats around the world. This has occurred more and more often with the expansion of humans. With the European colonization of North America came the extinction or near extinction of many species such as the passenger pigeon and the American Bison. As human population grows so does the amount of waste and pollution we create. These lead to problems in the environment that in turn affect us.
Endangered species often are the first clues to a bigger problem in an ecosystem, problems that more often than not also affect humans. For example, when the bald eagle was on the brink of extinction congress banned the use of the pesticide DDT which was causing harmful effects in the species. It was later discovered that this pesticide also caused cancer in humans. One reason that people say we shouldn’t be even trying to save these species is that it wastes money that could be spent in other areas. However there are uses for some of these species that would benefit the threatened species and make a profit for humans.

One of these methods is using these species in industry. Species that are endangered are often very specialized and so have unique qualities that make them good for industry. One example of such a species is the jojoba plant. This plant produces oil that is only comparable to the oil derived from the sperm-whale, a species that was close to extinction itself from over hunting. Another plant that has possibilities if protected is the guayule plant which contains high amounts of natural rubber and has a resin that is rich in other usable materials. So if we saved species like these from possible extinction then we would be able to use them afterward. Also another area that would benefit from saving endangered species is agriculture. There are many species that are on the endangered species list that could be used in pest control such as insects and plants with chemical resistances toward pests. There are also plants that could be used as forage crops because of high nutritional value. These are just a few reasons why we should be fighting for this cause.

If you are not interested in getting a profit from these species after they are no longer endangered then maybe you would be interested in the possible medical gain. There are hundreds of thousands of plants species out in the world. Yet we have only investigated 2% out of around 250,000 different species for possible medical use, and of those most we have only investigated partially. So in letting these species die out we are letting possible cures to the major diseases that plague today’s world die out as well. For once a species dies out its chemical makeup is forever lost and can never be accessed again. Also of the medicines that have been discovered 40% of prescriptions are derived from nature or are synthesized in a lab to mimic these chemical compounds. So if we do nothing to prevent species from dying out then there is the possibility that we would lose some of the modern medicine that we have worked so hard to gain.

In short we have a lot to lose if we do nothing to help these species that are in desperate need of help. Human growth and activity is what caused these species to decline, so shouldn’t we be showing the kinder side of human nature by helping those that are in need? These species do not have the capability of defending and helping themselves because of what we have done to them. It’s time that we give back to a planet that has supported us for thousands of years. We are the most advanced species on the earth. It is time for the strong to help the weak; it is time to save our homelands. For if all of these species die out, where does that leave us?

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sillymama said...
Mar. 11, 2011 at 5:01 am
Very well-written article.  Thought provoking.  I agree that we need to give back to the planet and help the weaker species, but I do not believe in totally locking us out of the land to do it as the government is now trying to do.  Would be interesting to see what this author thinks about that aspect. 
Dragongal replied...
Mar. 12, 2011 at 11:30 am
I disagree with how the government is responding as well. There are other ways of solving this poblem and they just choose what seems to be the easiest way. Maybe someday someone will change that.
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