The sixth mass extinction in geological history has already begun! Well that’s what some of the most accomplished and acclaimed Scientists of the world have been saying, a claim we must certainly not ignore. While for some it may have come as a shock, but many of you would be wondering about what caused the earlier mass extinctions? Over its long & rather strong history, Life on planet Earth has endured five mass extinctions of species, caused by massive volcanic eruptions, severe ice ages, meteorite impacts and colliding continents.
The one that is going to hit Earth now is very different. It’s not going to be triggered by geology or climate change, but by YOU and ME! Yes, that’s right. Humans and our destructive means are leading to massive biodiversity losses and ensuring we head towards a mass extinction at a speed that can put Captain Marvel to shame. For the uninformed, Captain Marvel is known to have touched a top speed of three times the speed of sound! What’s the speed of sound or who is Captain Marvel you ask? Google to the rescue my friend.
Since I have been throwing a barrage of appalling facts at you, here’s another one I read while researching for this article. Another study indicates that 97% of the world's vertebrate terrestrial animals are either humans or our farm animals by weight – barely 3 percent are wild!
If this doesn't make you fall off your chair, you should just go binge watch Money Heist instead.
April 22nd is an important date for all of us, and more so in 2020. Well yes, it is Kaká’s 37th birthday but, more importantly it marks the 50th anniversary of Earth Day.
2020 was planned to be a ‘Super Year for Biodiversity’, as declared by the United Nations. Several landmark global meetings of the likes of the World Conservation Congress in France; a United Nations Ocean Conference in Portugal; and a Nature Summit in New York were scheduled to culminate at the Convention on Biological Diversity in China later this year.
Biodiversity is not some heavy jargon that rests in the hands of Scientists and Environmentalists to decode and protect. In simple terms, “Without biodiversity, there is no future for humanity,” according to Prof David Macdonald, a Scottish Zoologist and Conservationist. If I were to value the assets provided to us by the ecosystem, it can be estimated to be worth trillions of dollars - double the World’s GDP!
Do the names Walter G Rosen & Norman Myers ring a bell? Brownie points to the ones for whom it did, and to the latter, let me do the honours. While Walter coined the phrase ‘Biodiversity’ in 1985 (a derivative of Biological Diversity’ originally used by Lovejoy in 1980 to describe the variety of species that coexisted in a particular community), Norman is said to have coined the term ‘Biodiversity Hotspot’ way back in 1988. Though the world lost Norman to dementia in Oct 2019, his efforts in establishing the theory of Biodiversity Hotspots don’t need to stop. Norman has already shown us that protected areas are the most powerful tools we have to fight the rapid extinction of species.
The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic that has crippled mammoth economies and brought the world to a standstill, merely reinforces the world's pressing need to protect its endangered biodiversity. The links between pandemics and biodiversity are coming to the fore and taking precedence owing to extensive research done during preceding pandemics. The West African Ebola epidemic was the result of deforestation, contributing to closer human and wildlife encounters. The Avian Flu was associated with intensive poultry farming, and the Nipah virus originated from Malaysia's intensification of pig farming.
Nature is constantly giving us messages and the COVID-19 (a zoonotic disease) is a wake-up call that shouldn’t be snoozed! We need to protect ecosystems from unchecked and rampant human encroachment, allowing the species to survive and thrive undisturbed. To support this statement I would like to highlight a study done by researchers from University of Melbourne, confirming a magnified risk of zoonotic disease transmission from wild animals in a situation where humans destroy the species’ habitats. Given the highly interconnected world we live in, it’s fairly effortless for the virus to hitch a ride on the new host and retitle Jules Verne’s famous novel to ‘Around the World in 80 Hours’!
Disease, of any kind, is largely an environmental concern and the sooner we grapple the fact the better for us. Measures need to be put in place to curb pollution, population, poaching, unsustainable hunting of food specifically in and around the protected areas. Changes to the Global Climate are reversible (even if it takes centuries or millennia), but once species become extinct, the real world doesn’t have Avengers to fall back on.
- Naseema Tasneem | Assistant Manager, Digital Marketing | Royal Enfield, Gurgaon