People have had an impact on the environment since the beginning of their lives. The last 200 years have seen rapid growth of both our population and the global economy, with the occupation and degradation of new habitats.
We cut down forests and convert them into large, monoculture crops; we drain swamps to make room for new cities and industrial areas; we poison water and air, producing the goods we need to live and develop; we move around and with us new, invasive species of plants and animals; we massive kill animals to meet our meat needs; we change the world around us more and more quickly and intensively every day.
All this with complete disregard for the natural environment and a lack of awareness of the need for sustainable resource use.
Our ecosystem can be compared to an extremely complex machine, whose individual components are closely linked and interact with each other. Even though it is self-managed and adjustable, the lack of more and more parts significantly affects its performance.
These parts are nothing but living organisms.
Today we are witnessing changes that are gradually, but increasingly rapidly and noticeably entering the lives of all species. Some of them are able to adapt and even benefit from changes, others are doomed. But is this clearly our fault?
The extinction of species is a natural process that has taken place since the beginning of life on Earth. The average life expectancy of a species is assumed to be 1-10 million years.
This is primarily due to the occurrence of genetic problems and diseases, as well as the ongoing inter-species competition for water, food and habitats suitable for life and reproduction.
It is estimated that over 99.9% of all species that have ever lived on Earth are extinct.
That is over five billion species! Currently our planet is inhabited by about 8.7 million eukaryotic species and several times as many species of microorganisms such as bacteria. Contrary to appearances, it is not a big number, and it is shrinking fast. Human domination significantly accelerates the process of extinction of all organisms with which we should share this planet and its resources in accordance with the natural balance.
Why should we care?
According to IPBES (Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services): “our destruction of biodiversity and ecosystem services has reached levels that threaten our well-being at least as much as human-induced climate change”. Properly functioning ecosystems, characterized by high biodiversity, actually owe everything we need to live.
Bacteria and other living organisms break down organic matter into nutrients, providing healthy soil for plant growth. Plants process solar energy, making it available to other forms of life. Pollinating insects are essential for plant propagation, guaranteeing food production. Plants and oceans are important carbon sinkers. In other words, biodiversity guarantees clean air and water, fertile soil and pollination of crops, helps slow down the effects of climate change and adapt to it, and reduces the effects of natural disasters.
Since living organisms interact with each other in dynamic ecosystems, the disappearance of one species can have far-reaching consequences for the food chain. It is impossible to predict exactly what impact mass extinction would have on people, but the vision of an Earth without plants and animals, to whose kingdom we belong, should make everyone reflect.
Regardless of our point of view, we humans are also part of this complex and delicate machinery called the ecosystem. If we do not act NOW to protect global biodiversity from the effects of our actions, perhaps we will condemn ourselves to extinction as we allow other species to die out.
BEng. Rita Lisiewicz
for Insider Release
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