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By Russ Finley on Mar 25, 2012 with 1 response

Energy Sources Versus Nature

Welcome to the sixth extinction event.

This is a portrait of an axolotl. My youngest daughter has two of them. They are almost extinct in the wild. However, because they breed well in captivity and because they are valuable for research (they can regenerate entire lost appendages), there is a large captive population. Coincidentally, she also has a pet New Caledonia crested gecko, also on the verge of extinction in the wild, which also breeds well in captivity, and also has a large captive population.

I get a weekly newsletter from an excellent website called Mongabay dedicated to the preservation of biodiversity. I can’t motivate myself to go to the website on a weekly basis because I find it too depressing. I am, however, willing to open the newsletter when it arrives in my inbox. Last week they highlighted a video about the discovery of a new species by Indian researchers. Click here to see the video.

While hiking in Costa Rica I once kicked a dirt clod over and found what appeared to be an earthworm hiding under it. I picked it up and was musing over how lively tropical earthworms were when the realization dawned that I was holding a caecilian, which is an amphibian, complete with a backbone and jaws …with lots of teeth. Who knows, maybe it was a new species. We are presently losing species faster than we discover them. Most species we have not discovered yet will be extinct before we find them.

A sampling of what else I found at Mongabay:

Scientists say massive palm oil plantation will “cut the heart out” of Cameroon’s rainforest

Amazon plant yields miracle cure for dental pain

Surging demand for vegetable oil drives rainforest destruction

Majority of protected tropical forests “empty” due to hunting

Fungus from the Amazon devours plastic

Just read an interesting article in the Spring issue of Conservation Magazine called A Bitter Pill. Did you know that Gila monster spit contains a hormone with the potential to treat diabetes? The list of pharmaceuticals derived from wild plants and animals is long and growing. Many conservationists hoped they could parlay this fact into a way to protect biodiversity. Hasn’t worked out as planned:

…the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species says 64 plant species are currently threatened by overharvesting for medicinal uses.

When they got a promising hit for an anti-HIV compound from a tree in Sarawak, Malaysia, researchers hurried back to collect more samples. But someone had cut down the only known tree.

There are faster ways to make money out of wildlife habitat, like building dams and planting palm oil.

World population is still growing at about 210 thousand people a day, or roughly 77 million per year. The vast majority of that growth is happening in developing countries. The population is getting bigger every year but it isn’t getting bigger as fast as it was a few decades ago. The rate of growth is slowing and at some point in the next forty or so years, deaths are expected to outpace births. At that point, the population will stop growing. It has been estimated that agricultural output will have to increase at least 50 percent to keep everybody fed.

Now you know why I’m so critical of energy schemes that do the most damage to ecosystems, and supportive of energy schemes that do the least (nuclear, wind, and solar) although it is not OK to locate wind farms in raptor migration corridors and solar power in desert tortoise habitat. Environmentalists still need to draw lines in the sand, regardless of power source.

 Photo courtesy of trasroid via Flickr.

  1. By OD on March 25, 2012 at 9:30 pm

    That population gif was extremely eye-opening. Somber post. I worry about my children’s future a lot and my own, for that matter. 

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