This is bad, bad news. And it has humanity’s fingerprints all over it.

A week ago, the UN released a report summary on the IPBES Global Assessment that found “that around 1 million animal and plant species are now threatened with extinction.” Hundreds of experts and contributing authors around the world have spent the past five years developing the most comprehensive report on our biodiversity crisis ever published. And it’s demanding we take action.

I’ll be honest. When I read this news, I got really, really mad. I cursed at my screen and slammed my fist on the table. One million? Seriously? What the hell are we doing?

But I’m an optimist. I believe in the good of humanity. So I funneled my frustration into research. Here’s what I found:

The Causes…

Aerial view of a crop field

Photo by Ivan Bandura on Unsplash

1. Changes in Land & Sea Use. In other words, habitat destruction for agriculture and urbanization. If you look at this map of America’s land use, you’ll see that most of it is dedicated to farmland and livestock. Worldwide, 75% of land and 66% of ocean areas have been “severely altered” by human activity.

Grey Rhino against black background

Photo by Geran de Klerk on Unsplash. Several rhino species are critically endangered and continue to be poached.

2. Direct Exploitation. Also known as poaching. Unsustainable fisheries also fits under here. The exploitation of farm animals (read: pork, beef, poultry, etc.) for industrial agriculture contribute to pollution and point #1.

Photo by Torsten Dederichs on Unsplash. Many penguin species are endangered due to habitat loss.

3. Climate Change. You saw this one coming. Sea temperature rise, glacier melt, and higher concentrations of carbon in the water make the oceans acidic and kill coral reefs (among other species).

Photo by Dustan Woodhouse on Unsplash. Image of a beach in the Dominican Republic.

4. Pollution. Americans alone discard more than 30 million tons of plastic a year. Only 8 percent of it gets recycled. On top of that, 300 to 400 million tons of industrial waste including heavy metals, solvents, and toxic sludge are dumped into bodies of water every year.

Photo by David Clode on Unsplash. Lionfish are an invasive species that kill native species and disrupt coral reef systems.

5. Invasive Species. Invasive species find new locations by clinging onto our boats, are dumped by irresponsible pet owners, or are intentionally brought from one place to another. Without natural predators, they can wipe out native species and disrupt ecosystems.

Well, Sh*t. Those Are Huge Problems.

Listen…I don’t want to scare you. I know it’s a helluva lot to process. But even the IPBES Chair Sir Robert Watson had this to add: “The Report also tells us that it is not too late to make a difference, but only if we start now at every level from local to global.”

THIS IS A CALL TO ARMS. Get mad. Make change. Join me.

DON’T. GIVE. UP. We need planet advocates now more than ever.

The report states that it will take a lot of work on the behalf of a lot of people to save one million species from the brink of extinction. It will take industry transformations and serious effort from national leaders. The single most important thing we can do is DON’T. GIVE. UP. We need planet advocates now more than ever. And we need a lot of them.

I’m In. What Can I Do?

Know Your Food.

Buy locally and seasonally. It’s farmers market season, so there’s no better time to start! Eat mostly local plants to keep your carbon footprint at an all time low. This will help reduce your food waste, since the leading reason behind deforestation is irresponsible agriculture.

Better yet, learn up on sustainable + regenerative agriculture and start your own garden. Regenerative agriculture puts all that fossil fuel carbon we’ve been burning back into the ground. If you’re feeling extra curious, I HIGHLY recommend you watch my favorite Ted Talk ever on how we can end desertification (read: land turning into deserts) with livestock.

Reduce Your Carbon Footprint.

You’re in luck — I’ve already written a piece on how to reduce your footprint & save money.

Stop Using Plastic.

Image by Shirley Hirst from Pixabay

I’m loving the growing interest in zero waste and the anti-plastic movement. Realistically, our societal infrastructure (read: how our society works) doesn’t make it easy for everyone to reduce plastic. While fads like #StopSucking plastic straws are awesome, it’s a tiny drop in a huge bucket. To make an even bigger difference, start recycling responsibly. I’m looking at you, aspirational recyclers.

If you have the ability to reduce your intake of single-use items and/or reuse other things, go for it! It all counts.

Get Outside.

Conservationists are born when a new visitor develops a connection with the outdoors. Get outside, invite your friends, and practice minimal impact habits like Leave No Trace.

Better yet, stand up for outdoor spaces. Beloved outdoor recreation sites and conservation lands need advocates. The more public lands we can keep wild, the better chances wildlife have for survival.

Support, Support, Support!

Support organizations that support biodiversity. Many of these orgs share updates on policy and research, so paying attention to them will keep you informed. Examples: World Wildlife Federation. Surfrider Foundation. National Wildlife Federation. Defenders of Wildlife. Earthjustice. Nature Conservancy. There are many more.

Support policy and stand against anti-environmental policy. Example: The current administration is attempting to roll back a rule that defines streams and wetlands as protected waters under the Clean Water Act. Stifling this rule will mean these waters will be open to dumping. Many orgs have petitions on these sort of things — such as the NDRC’s petition on the Clean Water Rule — that you can share and sign in solidarity.

V O T E .

The report states that we need immediate change from countries to save one million species from extinction. That means we need legislators that will take serious climate action. Educated voting is, undoubtedly, the most important thing you can do to save the animals.

Learn up on your legislators here. And give them a call or pay them a visit. They make decisions on your behalf, after all.

Register to vote here. And in 2020, vote for a climate activist.

The National Geographic Photo Ark project by Joel Sartore: an attempt to document species before they go extinct.

Want to read the 40-page Global Assessment Summary for Policymakers? Find it here:

2 replies on “1 Million Species Face Extinction. What Can We Do?

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