Biodiversity is the key to having a sustainable planet. When an ecosystem is impacted negatively, a chain of extinctions can occur. Extinction is forever. Many life forms on earth, both plant and animal have evolved, lived and died, and become extinct.
All dinosaurs are extinct of course, but less known is that many human species have come and gone as well.
The early bipedal humans, the australopithecines, have long been extinct. And although there is debate about it that continues, with the question raised as to whether modern humans and Neanderthal people intermarried, the Neanderthal people as a distinct species, no longer exist.
The permanence of extinction cannot be overstated. The enormous number of people now living on earth, especially as they continue to reproduce, affects the extinctions of many species on a daily basis. Plants and animals are connected of course, and when a foundation species, such as cereal grass, or forest, is gone, the web of being is damaged on every level.
It is a precarious time to be alive for every plant and animal affected by human agriculture, deforestation, over fishing, soil degradation and pollution. Yet this is not an entirely new development.
Early humans leave in their wake the extinctions of most mega fauna of Europe and the Americas. The fossil record attests to many examples of both plants and animals that we no longer can find, such as the mastodon, which is believed to have been hunted in large numbers until there simply were no more.
The introduction of newer invasive species also comes with every human habitation of a region. Aggressive competition, and the fact that many animals have no evolved fear of predation, makes animals particularly vulnerable. Species that biologists will be surprised, (and thrilled) to still be on earth in one hundred years include the very, very endangered and rare Amur Leopard, the Siberian tiger, Greater Bamboo Lemur, Northern Right whale, leatherback sea turtle, Java Rhinoceros, Mountain gorilla and Hawaiian Monk seal. Being among of the most beautiful and/or powerful animals on earth is no advantage for such magnificent creatures.
Even in the few short years since the 21st century there have been many extinctions such as the river dolphin, the paddlefish, the Pyrenean Ibex, and the Vietnamese Rhino. Even allowing possible reproduction with some of their genetic material, DNA, the likelihood of bringing back any such species is doomed to failure once their habitat, range, and food source is no longer available.
And for every large and well known animal there are literally thousands of lesser known species that die off every day, as whole eco-systems are destroyed.
Earth is lesser for their loss, and therefore humanity, is impacted deleteriously in multiple ways that we are only beginning to understand. Nature’s balance is based on abundance and variety, without it, all of interdependent life on earth will eventually go the way of the DoDo.
People do not seem concerned about our daily extinctions, but many Eco-psychologists see this as a vast and spreading denial, that whether or not it is acknowledged, is certainly causing deep and detrimental sense of uncertainty, stress, and even doom. It is reflected in obvious things, like water wars, religious intolerance, resource battles, and daily strife, but it is also present in people cluttering their minds with technology, smart devices, social networking, and acquiring ever greater amounts of “stuff”. This hoarding behavior is understood by psychologists as having at its core, a sense of insecurity and instability. All addictions are symptoms of deep inner turmoil that we self medicate with everything from caffeine to over eating.
We are connected to earth by all elements within and beyond us, such as water, air, and soil. Yet we hide these things from our everyday knowing, because deep within each human heart is a tragic dread of our loss of life, life being something so much greater than, and yet at the same time, of us. It will take a very great change in human attitudes to recapture the sense of our belonging to the earth. Still there is optimism in learning our tremendous power to realize that we, and all living ecosystems, can affect earth. We can learn from nature how to farm, hunt, and harvest in sustainable methods which first made Eden a rich and abundant, living, home.