Monday, May 7, 2012

We are all in this together

Climate change. Water pollution. Over population. Toxic wastes. Carbon and mercury emissions into the atmosphere. Everyone but the fringe science deniers who have become the Republican mainstream agree that these and other threats are challenging our planet and mankind. Now add to that list species extinction.

A recent report in Nature concludes that species extinction is equally threatening to our world and is a significant driver of global change. Studies over the past two decades have shown the biologically diverse ecosystems are more productive in producing life sustaining for all, including humans. The study's lead author, David Hooper of Western Washington University, states
Some people have assumed that biodiversity effects are relatively minor compared to other environmental stressors. Our new results show that future loss of species has the potential to reduce plant production just as much as global warming and pollution.
The chart, from Millennium Ecosystem Management, shows the interconnected relationship between biodiversity, ecosystems, and human well-being and illustrates how what we do locally can have far reaching impacts.

In short, what may as a inconsequential loss of a species here and a species there can add up to something larger impacting the life of the entire planet. As Richard Pearson of the American Museum of Natural History recently wrote in The New York Times as he pondered nearly 20,000 species facing extinction in the wild, "This should keep us up at night."

It is a local, regional, and global interconnection and in the pursuit of our interests we often unintentionally or intentionally don't connect the dots. For example, much of the air pollution affecting a national treasure like Shenandoah National Park comes industries and utilities in the Ohio River Valley - why do you think they build those tall smokestacks? So the emissions will be picked up by prevailing winds that carry the toxins away from the source.  The dirty air becomes a problem for everybody downwind.

It is the same shortsighted insanity that Rep. Bob Goodlatte's H.R. 4153 would inflict on the Chesapeake Bay. Like many politicians he makes only those connections that have to do with his constant campaign for perpetual reelection. When it comes to restoring the bay he is worse than clueless, he denies scientic facts and the realities of achieving regional goals in our federal system - all for his own political gain.

Species around the globe, even those which you and I may never see, can have dramatic positive benefits for our lives. Don't think a tiny animal on an exotic choral reef could change your life? Think again?

Get involved in your everyday life. Recycle when possible. Nurture wildlife in your neighborhood. Tell your congressman to oppose legislation like H.R. 4153 that would be a tragedy for the Chesapeake Bay. Adopt a choral reef.

This clip from the Institute of Biological Research, Alexander Von Humboldt, Bogotá, Colombia explains the importance of biodiversity.

As Aldo Leopold and later, Paul Ehrlich, remind us - the first rule to intelligent tinkering is save all the parts. Kudos to Mother Jones.

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