As humans, we are, of course, most concerned with our own survival. But the world is a “closed system,” meaning that nothing is added or subtracted—all the parts have to work together to maintain life as we know it. EcoWatch considers global warming the greatest threat to survival of life on the planet, as we noted, but number two is the loss of biodiversity. That is—mass extinctions of the “links in the chain” of life.
And it’s our own fault.
If we don’t melt ourselves into extinction, another possible route to end times is partly a byproduct of climate change: loss of biodiversity. Human activity is responsible for massive extinctions of countless species on Planet Earth. Environment News Service reported as far back as 1999 that, “the current extinction rate is now approaching 1,000 times the background rate [what would be considered the normal rate of extinction] and may climb to 10,000 times the background rate during the next century, if present trends continue [resulting in] a loss that would easily equal those of past extinctions.”
The Millennium Ecosystem Assessment, a major environmental report released in 2005, reported 10-30 percent of mammals, birds and amphibians on the planet are in danger of extinction due to human activity, which includes deforestation (resulting in habitat destruction), CO2 emissions (resulting in acid rain), over-exploitation (such as overfishing the oceans), and invasive species introduction (like boa constrictors in the Florida Everglades). . .
The next mass extinction may have already begun.” What would that be like? Well, in the worst one, 250 million years ago, 96 percent of ocean life and 70 percent of land life perished.
Some people laugh at efforts to save species, such as “the spotted owl,” but in fact, we do need each other. As we begin to fire up the economy again, we should consider how our actions are killing many of the species on which our very lives depend.
It’s easier to empathize with species that work more directly for our survival—especially if they’re cute. One is bees. The news has been full of worry about an invasive enemy. For instance, National Geographic discusses “Murder Hornets.”
When they encounter honeybees, their attack starts with a “slaughter phase” in which they serially bite the heads off bees with their large mandibles. . .Within 90 minutes, a small group of Asian hornets can destroy an entire colony’s workers this way. . .
Then, the hornets shift to feeding. They occupy the honeybee nest for up to a week or longer, feeding on the pupae and larvae. They then feed it to their own young. . .
European honeybees (Apis mellifera), the most widespread commercial pollinators, have no known defense against Asian giant hornets. Though the bees have been observed stinging the would-be invaders, it appears to have no effect on these wasps.
This is important, because most of the food we eat is pollinated by bees (directly or indirectly), according to EcoWatch, but the real danger to bees is not fellow insects—it’s US. As many as 50 percent of the hives in the U.S. and Europe have collapsed in the past 10 years.
Bees pollinate crops ranging from apples to zucchini. Blueberries and almonds are almost entirely dependent on them. Some experts say they’re responsible for one of every three bites of food we eat. . . Colony collapse disorder has wiped out millions of hives over the past decade, with pesticide use, parasites and poor nutrition eyed as likely culprits. . .
We need to get a handle on the toxic chemicals we use to grow food. If our practices kill insects and birds that make it possible to grow crops, we’re defeating their purpose and putting ourselves and the rest of nature at risk.
Another species in danger is—BATS. Most of us are irrationally frightened of them, because they’re nocturnal, we have little contact, and when we do, we hear screeching, and can’t really see them flying speedily by. Another problem is that bats are being blamed for Covid-19, but we would only be hurting ourselves if we were to attack bats.
It’s common knowledge that bats eat a tremendous amount of insects—including many insects that are dangerous to humans; but like bees, bats are also important for pollination.
In the tropics, fruit and nectar eating bats are important for dispersing seeds and pollinating flowers. In fact, more than 300 tropical plants depend on bats for seed dispersal and pollination. These plants include bananas, mangoes, avocados, date, and figs. By dispersing seeds, bats are helping rebuild rainforests that humans have cut down.
In fact, the National Wildlife Federation gives us ten reasons why we should love bats. For one, they’re closely related to humans.
Recently scientists estimated that bats in the United States have save us somewhere between $3.7 and 54 billion in pest control services every year. Bats have been documented eating bugs that attack pecans, almonds, rice, cotton, corn, coffee, sugarcane, tomatoes, cucumbers and beans. . .Bats pollinate over 700 plants, some of which we use for food and medicine. . . By moving seeds away from the parent plant, bats allow these seeds to grow in an area where they’ll be more likely to grow without competition from the parent plant.
Unfortunately, you may have heard of “white nose syndrome,” which is killing many bats. The Canadian Wildlife Federation says “Bats are amazing animals that are vital to the health of our environment and economy. Although we may not always see them, bats are hard at work all around the world each night – eating thousands of insects, pollinating flowers, and spreading seeds that grow new plants and trees.”
But humans are also endangering bats, through habitat loss and use of pesticides.
Many bats depend on riparian areas (riverbanks, lakeshores, etc.) for both water and insect foraging. . . Deforestation affects bat species that rely on forests for roosting and foraging. . . Crops are often sprayed in early evening, when bats are active. Direct spraying can quickly lead to the death of bats.
OK, bees and bats are dying due to human activity. That’s just two, right? Wrong. In fact, The World Wildlife Federation offers a whole list (two full pages) of the “most” endangered species. There are more.
Life on earth is like a set of dominoes. If one goes down, we may all go–and humans are not above it all. As we go back to work, we should remember that. Or, as Rodney King said, “I just want to say – you know – can we all get along?”