Everyday, humans take advantage of the world's resources. Water for drinking, the foods we eat, and even trees and other natural materials for shelter are used by humans on a daily basis without concern for the future. But along the way, we're using more than can be replenished, causing catastrophic damages to the earth. One of the most tragic contributors to this phenomenon is humanity and all that it entails, making the human race arguably the largest of the many different causes of extinction.
This extinction isn't reserved only for animals either. Plant life is also dying off at an alarming rate, as well as the habitats that make it possible for wildlife to thrive. As our resources reach a state of depletion, the world is experiencing circumstances unlike ever before, and the adjustments are too much to make in such a short amount of time. The result, naturally, is extinction.
There are many different factors that play into extinction, many of which come from humans. Here are 5 human causes of extinction that are currently damaging the planet:
1. Taking Natural Habitat Away From Native Species
Indigenous plants and animals are fully acclimated to their surroundings. The weather, food supply, and general conditions of the area are ideal for the plants and animals living there. However, as the global population increases, humans are expanding into new areas. As we do so, we are destroying the luscious land that many species call home. The result is that the animals and plants have to adapt to their new human neighbors, or relocate. Often times, it's impossible for the plants and animals to thrive in new conditions, leading to a population decrease suddenly, or overtime.
Also known as habitat degradation, this phenomenon is a huge contributor to extinction. According to research done by the United Nations, 85% of species considered "endangered or threatened" are put at huge risk due to habitat degradation. Forests and fields are being taken over at enormous rates, and the regrowth of new plants can't keep up with the rate of destruction.
Humans are creating a greater threat to endangered species due to habitat degradation
2. Hunting and Overfishing
Humanity has become accustomed to eating meat and fish regularly. Our diets consist of meat-heavy dishes and snacks, and the effects are leading to overfishing and too much human consumption of animals. As a result, the raising and slaughtering of these animals is happening too fast to replenish.
While the chances of pigs, cows, and chickens going extinct are slim to none, the speed of reproduction for slaughtering is damaging to the environment, which can then have an effect on the livelihood of other species. Take cows for example: The lifespan of cows for food and dairy is terrible for the planet in all stages. The feeding, watering of crops for food, slaughtering, cleaning, and manufacturing processes leave behind a huge CO2 trail. Naturally, cows also produce a significant amount of methane, which is exceptionally damaging for the environment and a large contributor to climate change.
Overfishing is also an increasing risk for the planet. Mass fishing in our oceans is leading to a threat for marine life in general, not just fish. When large amounts of fish are taken for human consumption, the remaining fish can vary in sizes and limit the pool for reproduction. Once this balance is thrown off, entire ecosystems are put at risk in the oceans. This then can affect already endangered marine life such as sea turtles, proving to be one of the many causes of extinction that our planet is facing.
3. Wasting What We Have
It's no surprise that much of our food and water go to waste. The ease of grocery shopping and the accessibility of non-local ingredients creates a carbon footprint that can't be ignored, especially considering the amount that ends up going to waste.
It is estimated that roughly 50% of the food in America is thrown away. All of the hard work, crop growing, harvesting, and animal deaths for food are gone to waste, without so much as a second thought. On top of that, our water footprints from those wasted foods (and from water waste in general) are stacking up. The result? Depleting water sources. Once the water sources in one location are used up, humans find another, only to deplete that one as well. What we are left with is a shortage of water and the ruined habitats of many types of animals and fish. Waste, amongst many other factors, is one of the more major causes of extinction.
More than half of the food in the United States gets thrown away, contributing to the enormous food waste problem
4. Letting Climate Change Continue
With all of the science and data on climate change, it's hard to deny that there's something going on here. Our rising ocean levels, loss of species to extinction, and bouts of extreme weather patterns are all pointing to the sad reality of a planet in despair.
As we face these man-made environmental threats, not much is actually being done to halt the process. We're still using up fossil fuels like crazy, destroying forests and other habitats, and letting our resources go to waste. While the process continues, so do the deaths of native plant and animal life. In fact, some scientists theorize that an extinction "domino effect" is a real possibility in the upcoming years. This would mean that certain species are co-dependent for survival, so when one dies off, so do the others.
5. Not Taking Political Action
Similarly to the previous point, we aren't doing nearly as much as we should in order to preserve our planet and address the causes of extinction. Regardless of religion or political affiliation, climate change is real, and no one is exempt from its damaging reality. While there are groups lobbying for change, the sad reality is that we are far off from bringing anything into action; There's a reluctancy from politicians to tackle the issue head-on, for reasons unknown.
There isn't a single factor to blame for climate change and animal extinction. Instead, many factors play into the bleak-looking future of our planet. But, every cause does seem to have a common denominator: Humans. Now is the time to make a change in our day-to-day lives to preserve our planet and all of its inhabitants, ourselves included. We can't wait until it's too late.