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Unstable Ecosystems and an Uncertain Future

August 13, 2021 • Environment

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Living in harmony with the planet is how life on Earth is supposed to be. Our lives as humans, and our health and wellbeing, are not separate from the lives, health, and wellbeing of the planet and all the plant and animal species that live here.

This harmony and interconnected way of living should lead us to care for the environment. We rely on a healthy planet to live healthy lives, so the health of the planet should be as important as our own health. However, environmental concerns are often dismissed. Too many people continue to ignore that environmental degradation is happening and that it has long-lasting and widespread impacts on our ability to live healthy lives.

Continuing to destroy habitats is upsetting the balance of the Earth, and millions of people and wildlife species are already feeling these consequences.

ENVIRONMENTAL DEGRADATION: HOW IT IS AFFECTING WILDLIFE

Destruction of natural habitats and ecosystems is negatively impacting wildlife species across the globe. The future of many species and biodiversity is being threatened as deforestation and ocean acidification jeopardize species ability to survive in their natural habitats.

Deforestation

Deforestation is partially responsible for destabilizing the climate and endangering the lives of thousands of plants and animals. Forests are home to 70 percent of the world’s animals and plants, and this land is being destroyed every year. Approximately 75,000 square kilometers are destroyed every year by human activity.

When land like forests and rainforests are cleared for housing, raw materials, and agriculture, ecological instability is left behind as thousands of animal habitats are destroyed. This puts them at risk for extinction as most species cannot adapt quickly. Only generalists species have a chance of adapting quick enough- other species will not be able to survive these drastic changes to their habitats.

Ocean Acidification

The acidification of our oceans, depletion of fisheries, and extinction of marine species are some of the worse environmental issues that we are facing through the destruction of natural habitats.

One of the biggest challenges we have created is ocean acidification. Burning more fossil fuels for human activities and through deforestation has released more carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, which also means that the ocean has been absorbing more carbon dioxide. The ocean absorbs about 30% of the carbon dioxide (CO2) that is released into the atmosphere. When this CO2 is absorbed and converted to carbonic acid, it makes our oceans become less habitable for species. Many aquatic species' abilities to survive are threatened by the acidification of the oceans.

Along with ocean acidification, many marine species are also threatened by overfishing. The World Wildlife Foundation reports that 85 percent of the world’s fisheries are fully exploited, overexploited, depleted, or recovering from depletion. Exploiting the ocean for food at an unsustainable rate is creating an unstable ecosystem in the ocean. Overfishing is threatening the future of many fish. Other aquatic species such as dolphins and sharks are also killed due to destructive fishing practices.

Continuing to disregard the importance of a healthy ocean will cause many problems as climate change and ocean acidification continue to get worse.

Mass Extinction

The combination of deforestation, ocean acidification, climate change, and a lack of protection for natural habitats and species is leading many species towards extinction. The rapid extinction rates that are occurring today are estimated to be between 1,000 and 10,000 times higher than the natural extinction rate.

This rate shows that our current use of natural resources is unsustainable and is having devasting impacts on the health of wildlife and the planet. We have created conditions that threaten the future of biodiversity in order to continue economic growth, without considering the consequences of how — or even if — we can live on a planet with unstable ecosystems.

Most plant and animal species cannot adapt quick enough to survive in these conditions- and we cannot survive without them.

A HEALTHY ECOSYSTEM FOR ALL

Saving ecosystems from environmental degradation and climate change goes beyond just helping wildlife. We also rely on a healthy planet for land, water, food, and income- and everyone deserves to have access to sufficient resources.

1.6 billion people rely on forests for food and income and millions of people rely on fishing as a primary source for their food and income. We need to support a healthy planet so that we can continue to access these necessary resources that keep many people alive and that provide them with income.

However, our current rate of overconsumption is draining these resources at an unsustainable rate that is leaving behind fragile, unstable ecosystems. We need to work towards changing our economic model and reevaluating the idea of continuous economic growth on a global scale- this change goes beyond the individual level. Saving these fragile ecosystems and protecting our planet’s health needs to become a concern for big businesses and governments. They have the power to change their practices surrounding resource collection and utilization towards practices that value sustainability and environmental protection.

Carelessly destroying these natural resources is not a sane option, and we need to act fast before they are gone.

THE FUTURE NEEDS A HEALTHY PLANET

Supporting a healthy ecosystem is also vital when it comes to supporting future generations. Here at PMC, we believe that all people should be able to access the resources they need to survive and have a healthy place to live. Inspired by promoting global sustainability and a healthy planet, we recently teamed up with the Jane Goodall Institute to rebroadcast, Pambazuko (“New Dawn”), in the Democratic Republic of Congo. Integrating more conservation-specific storylines will help inspire others to see the importance of caring for the environment as we move towards living more sustainable lives.

The future of the planet and the wildlife is in our hands. Promoting sustainable change and environmental protection is necessary to save the planet and biodiversity. Living in harmony with the planet and all that live here is crucial if we want to have a healthy future.


Picture of Abigail Carroll

Written by Abigail Carroll

Abigail is a Marketing and Communications Intern at Population Media Center. She is studying Public Communication and Political Science at the University of Vermont.