Recent human history shows we have not been kind to other creatures with whom we share the planet.
The last vestiges of British Empire brought Lord of the Manor, big-game animal hunting to Africa, energetically taken up by high-profile American enthusiasts such as writer Ernest Hemingway. America saw its own decimation of wildlife with the mass slaughter of buffalo.
Now we see wildlife imperiled worldwide. Humankind pushes and pushes. We fish unsustainably, scooping up everything in the ocean in pursuit of a particular species, wasting the bycatch. Huge illegal trade in animals threatens a variety of animals, including our elephants, rhinos and the few remaining tigers that exist. We cut down our forests, build, build, build and continue paving over paradise, to paraphrase Joni Mitchell, destroying animal habitat throughout these processes.
As I’ve written before, human population is relentless, growing at the expense of all other wildlife. If you’re more of a glass half-empty type, it’s easy to get depressed about our fecundity and rapaciousness. New research from Ohio State University won’t make us feel better.
According to the university research, relentless growth in human population “will inevitably crowd out mammals and birds and has the potential to threaten hundreds of species with extinction within 40 years.”
By 2050, the scientists concluded that we can expect to see a 10.8 percent increase in species threatened by extinction, with the U.S. ranking No. 6 in number of threatened species.
The study’s lead author, Ohio State anthropology professor Jeffrey McKee, said, “The data speak loud and clear that not only human population density, but the growth of the human population, is still having an effect on extinction threats to other species.”
Any “meaningful biodiversity conservation efforts,” the scientists concluded, have to take into account the increasing population impacts.
Amen to that.