David Attenborough – Extinction: The Facts

It’s no secret that David Attenborough is doing wonders for environmental education and the follow up to Climate Change: The Facts is no different. Extinction: The Facts aired on BBC in September 2020 and is a stark warning for the impact we are having on the biodiversity of this planet and why it is so important that we preserve it as much as we can moving forward.

As we head into a new normal and we digest what we learnt from the events of 2020, it is important that we don’t lose sight of how we have been able to adapt and change our lives for the benefit of others. The overarching message from Extinction: The Facts is that we are rapidly losing the biodiversity that makes our planet beautiful and habitable, and that we urgently need to do something to stop this.

This was originally written by Rebecca Hansell in December 2020 for Small World, Big Cause. Edited and refreshed in 2021 for The Curious Environmentalist.

endangered
Extinction
David Attenborough – Extinction: The Facts

All creatures, no matter how big or how small, are vital to the ecosystem of our world. As we lose biodiversity, we are not only experiencing an aesthetic loss, but we will experience profound change to our planet, and it will have massive impact on the stability of life on Earth.

Everything is interlinked.

Even something, seemingly insignificant to many, like the loss or vast reduction of insects can have significant impact. Insects make up the start of many food webs, meaning their loss can impact larger, more prominent or charismatic creatures that would feed on them. Insects are also hugely important to our modern life, they are vital to the pollination of our food crops, so their loss could threaten human existence as we know it.

The truth is that biodiversity is disappearing at the fastest rate in history.

Read that again.

The UN Nature Report estimated that 1 million species of plants and animal are at risk of extinction, out of estimated 8 million species on earth. With our actions, we are threatening the earth systems that support all life on our planet. This means that we are threatening our food stability, increasing climate change and the associated effects, and we are also going to see more pandemics like COVID19.

Today we are the asteroid that is causing many, many species to go extinct simultaneously.

The truth is, and it is not something that we want to hear, is that humans are responsible for every pandemic we have seen in recent years. Through our inappropriate and disrespectful interaction with animals and their habits, without us looking at how we interact with the planet, epidemics will increase. I don’t know about you, but I would really not like to see a repeat of 2020 any time soon.

All biodiversity, everywhere on the planet, is being lost right now.

So, here is a little science for you that you can whip out when people try to tell you that extinction is natural, and the biodiversity crisis is being blown out of proportion. Yes – extinction is a natural process.

 

The process itself is not what is worrying, it is the rate at which is happening that is a huge cause for concern. Extinction usually occurs over millions of years as a part of evolution; however, it is currently occurring over just tens of years – that is 100 times faster than the natural evolutionary rate and it is still increasing.

    One of the more high-profile extinctions in recent years has been the plight of the last of the Northern White Rhino at Ol Pejeta Conservancy. Sudan, who was the last male of the species, died a few years ago. There are now just one mother and daughter left of the entire species. We have lost this species due to a combination of habitat loss and poaching. However, the larger issue is that we have lost sight that we are part of nature and the earth ecosystem, not separate from it. What affects the planet, affects us and we have forgotten that. By changing and losing part of the natural world beyond repair, we are threatening our own survival.

    As mentioned before loss of biodiversity effects more than just the beauty of the planet. Biodiversity is vital to many vital processes, including:

     

    • water management
    • soil fertility
    • climate regulation
    • natural resources, and more

     

      The destruction of biodiversity is also caused by a wide array of issues that need to be addressed. It can feel overwhelming, but change is possible. It is important to have the full picture of the issue so that we can effectively find solutions.

      Loss of biodiversity is caused by:

      • poaching/hunting
      • habitat degradation, fragmentation and destruction
      • illegal wildlife trade – both alive and dead
      • intensive farming and over-fishing practices
      • population growth and increased consumption that goes alongside it
      • increased pollution through modern manufacturing demands
      • climate change – including global changing climates, extreme weather events, wildfires animal agriculture
      • big business profiting off fossil fuels – economic growth at the expense of biodiversity and planetary health
      • governmental failings on a global scale.

      We have a moment to change the world and make it better. This is that moment.

      So, what can we do to mitigate the effects of biodiversity loss and to halt the rate of extinction globally?

      • Clean up our cities
      • invest in greener future and technologies
      • retrofit buildings
      • make significant long-term change
      • acknowledge our failings and learn from our mistakes
      • see the true value of the natural world
      • halt expansion into wild places
      • reduce waste
      • reduce chemical usage
      • increase environmental rules and regulations that come from the governmental level
      • increase education to help encourage the public to change their behaviours
      • embrace consumer power

      Generations will look back in horror and wonder what we were thinking.

      It’s not all doom and gloom. There are some success stories out there but there isn’t going to be a happy ending without change, without effort or without caring about the future of our planet, our home. 

      Nature can bounce back, but only if given the chance.

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