Thursday, September 12, 2019

Extinction - Long story short

Forest cleared for crops © Lanthilda |

I support my local Extinction Rebellion group - Mendip XR - and hundreds of thousands of people, ordinary and extraordinary, likewise support XR.

But why is it called "Extinction" Rebellion?

Extinction of species is a normal part of life on this planet, but it is now happening at a completely abnormal rate.

Over the last 50 years, the biomass (a measure of the total weight of a species ) of wild animals has dropped by 80%.
Over the last 50 years, natural ecosystems have lost 50% of their area.
One million species, about 10% of the total species on the planet, are at risk of extinction. [source]

Unless we humans change our ways, it is inevitable that in the end the only species surviving on this planet will be us humans, animals we keep for food, and pests that we cannot get rid of like rats and cockroaches.

Therefore we have to change our ways.

The reason for the fall in wild animal numbers is pretty straightforward - it is that we are clearing natural ecosystems to plant cash crops like food and bio-fuels. There are other factors also such as climate change and trophy hunting, but farming is the worst culprit, as we have been seeing this month in the deliberate burning of Amazon rainforest in order to create space for soya beans and other crops.

In the UK we waste about 30-40% of the food we grow, so there is some scope for reduction in impact by reducing waste. It is also the case that a near-vegan diet is more efficient, to the extent that the same area of land devoted to growing vegetable foodstuffs could support about 50% more people  than if it were growing food animals, so again there is scope for reducing the pressure on natural ecosystems if we move towards a near-vegan diet.

In addition, we are already spoiling the ecological balance of the oceans by over-fishing.

These problems exist at a point that the human population stands at 7 Billion. This number is projected to rise to 11 Billion by the year 2100 - a rise of nearly 50%. This expansion will unarguably demand a further destruction of natural ecosystems for farm land.

An essential part of wildlife conservation, and of the Extinction Rebellion, must  therefore include reforms to reduce human population growth. This is a complex and emotive subject, but it must be addressed, and not dismissed as solely a problem caused by consumer capitalism, although that is indeed a very big factor.

The population problem must be addressed through education not coercion, and it involves empowerment of women, provision of contraception services, general medical services, care of the elderly, and bringing the living standards of the poorest nations up to a condition where everyone has enough. More on this topic on this blog.

So extinction is a matter that goes well beyond giving a donation to WWF, and indeed, in getting arrested for closing a road, important though both those actions are.

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