Earth Is on the Verge of a Mass Extinction Unless We Do This One, Simple Thing
In his article, “The Global Solution to Extinction,” Edward O. Wilson equates our current attempts at species conservation with a “surgeon in an emergency room…[who] has slowed the bleeding by half.” He is being optimistic.
The reality is, unfortunately, more like a M.A.S.H. hospital, where those like Professor Wilson are working their best and hardest to merely triage, to put a bandage on a gaping wound before the patient bleeds out. Whether the patient here dies is, sadly, not up to the doctors and nurses working so hard to save the life. They have done all they can, and now must move on to the next in a long line of critical patients waiting in the corridor.
If the ever-growing rate of species extinction is going to be curbed, then a new perspective of how we conceive of conservation needs to be developed. As members of the Earth’s eco- and biospheres, we need to move away from the current trend of Reactive Conservation.
The Endangered Species Act, like many other acts that govern endangered species, including CITES, depends primarily on a negative — they focus on what that species has lost, such as a reduction in habitat, a loss in population, etc. This system is responsive, as a species can only become endangered once it has already become endangered in a truly real and physical sense. We need new thinking on this.
More habitats need to be saved, and they need to be saved before the various species that live there see their populations drop to a point where they qualify as threatened. This is what we call Proactive Conservation, and it is slightly different from the Reactive Conservation that is the global norm.
Rather than starting with the assumption that a species is healthy and not endangered, reactively placing it on the Endangered Species List when it becomes endangered or threatened, Proactive Conservation would start from the other end.
The assumption would be that a species, whether actually endangered or not, is constantly in a threatened position. This might sound simple and perhaps even a little simplistic, yet the results would be a massive shift in how we relate to other species, especially on an educational and awareness level. If we assume that a species is already at risk, teaching this to our children in schools, and authoring policy and land-use applications with this in mind, then the very nature of how we interact with other species and our environment will always begin from a footing of care.
If 50 percent of habitats are to be saved, as Professor Wilson suggests, there needs to be a shift in how we relate to them and other species on this planet. Starting with how we perceive and interact with these habitats, teaching this new perspective to future generations can have an effect more powerful than watching, helplessly, as more and more species are added to an ever-growing list of the extinct.
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