Rhine Singleton is a professor of biology and environmental science at Franklin Pierce University in New Hampshire who studies, writes and teaches about ecology and the plight and decline of endangered species in the plant and animal worlds.
Though he is currently on sabbatical in Africa, Singleton says he has viewed the new report from the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES) states that humans are changing the Earth's ecosystems so dramatically that as many as one million plant and animal species are now at risk of extinction, and that current global response is insufficient to stop this decline in resources.
“I'm very familiar with the ongoing situation regarding extinctions and I'm glad to see that this report is getting worldwide attention,” he says. He offers the following quotable insights:
- The overall conclusion of the report, that we are on the brink of a major crisis and unless we change "business as usual" we will lose hundreds of thousands (if not 1 million plus) species is consistent with what ecologists and conservation biologists have been saying for quite some time now. In fact, Harvard Emeritus Professor E.O. Wilson (the scientist who coined the term "biodiversity") has been making this very point for since at least the year 2000. It's why he has recently recommended a "half earth" strategy of assigning some sort of protected status to roughly half of the earth's land and sea area in order to prevent a sixth mass extinction.
- Part of the challenge is that species are interdependent in ways that can be difficult to predict. There are many metaphors that have been used by conservation biologists to shed light on the consequences of species loss. For example, imagine losing rivets from the wings and body of an airplane. How many rivets can be lost before the plane is unsafe to fly? How many species can be lost from an ecosystem before the system collapses and most species are lost?
- Though there have been mass extinctions in the past, this would be the first caused by a single species. Perhaps we can use our intelligence to avoid this tragedy.
- Many have made the point, and I happen to agree, that we have the technology to change course if we can find the will. A huge improvement would be to switch to 100 percent renewable energy as quickly as possible. Not only would this have the benefit of preventing the worst-case climate change scenarios, it would result in major reduction in habitat destruction and pollution associated with fossil fuels, both major contributors to species extinctions.
- It's interested that a lot of the focus that I've seen in the media has been on how species extinctions will be detrimental to humans. That is absolutely true for countless reasons, including our ability to grow the food we need, maintain our health, find cures to diseases, etc. However, many have argued that there is value in protecting other species for ethical reasons. There is certainly a case to be made that species have value and a right to exist beyond any utilitarian value they may have for humans. Regardless, I hope this report can help convince the public, businesses, and politicians that we need to find the will to change to a more sustainable way of living on the planet.
Professor Rhine Singleton’s Franklin Pierce University faculty Web page: https://www.franklinpierce.edu/academics/bios/singletonr.htm