"The War on Life"
Published in the Namib Times,
By Marcia Stanton
You’re on a flight, off to somewhere fun. You look out at the wings of the airplane and you are amazed at how strong it is. Suddenly you look and you see a nut and bolt come apart. At first, you think it will all be fine... until another comes off, and then another. The wing starts coming apart. You panic. The plane will not be able to keep flying with a broken wing. If only that mechanic had paid attention and made sure the plane didn’t lose all those nuts and bolts. Perhaps one or two lost would have been fine, but losing so many made it so weak it eventually fell apart.
The same holds true with removing species from our planet. As species die off and don’t get replaced, the weaker the Earth gets and the more likely we are to crash. Currently it is estimated that we are losing approximately 10,000 species per year. These species are permanently gone- they are extinct. Some might say that extinction is natural and it’s always occurred, but the problem is that the current rate of extinction is between 1,000 to 10,000 times higher than normal.
We humans are almost wholly responsible for this drastic increase in species loss. We demand too many resources. We pollute, mine, create industrial areas, construct roads, power lines and power plants, build unnecessary structures, and hunt, fish, and collect too many species. Simply put, worldwide we take way more than we need. We effectively convert areas where animals live into places they cannot survive, all to meet the demands of excessive human wants.
One by one, we drive species to extinction, never to return. Yet each species has a unique role to play. If you remove one species, it affects all the other species in a negative way. A healthy ecosystem is a balance of a variety of species which depend on each other. None survive alone. A larger variety of species makes the environment stronger, just as more nuts and bolts in an airplane make it stronger. This is what we call biodiversity.
Biodiversity provides food security, jobs, medicine, disease and disaster control, and social, cultural and spiritual needs. Only 5 percent of known plant species have been screened for their medicinal values, although we continue to lose at least 100 plant species daily. According to the World Resources Institute, “surprisingly, scientists have a better understanding of how many stars there are in the galaxy than how many species there are on Earth.”
Although we don’t yet know all the species on the planet, we do know that at least 80 percent of our needs come directly from species including those we don’t know by name. In our greedy drive to be ‘civilized’ – to have more than what we need - every year we destroy 10,000 of the very species which are essential to our own survival.
The question remains “can any civilization wage relentless war on life without destroying itself and without losing the right to be called civilized?” Rachel Carson