Nature is a big place. Its mountains and oceans are vast. Its forests and plains stretch forever. There’s a lot out there. But not as much as before because Earth has only half the wildlife today that it had just 40 years ago.
That’s the verdict of the Living Planet Index from the London Zoological Society, which finds that populations of the 10,000+ mammals, birds, amphibians, reptiles, and fish species it tracks have declined by an average of 52% since 1970, the year of the first Earth Day. The organization blames forces like deforestation, hunting and overfishing, habitat destruction, and water consumption for the losses.
Now nobody went out and actually counted all the animals on Earth. Instead researchers combined records from all over the place to assess the situation. That’s risky business—comparing a few apples slices to some orange sections and then declaring how much fruit the world has left is scientifically dicey. But it’s not like researchers were just making stuff up. From a broad overview perspective, the report should be taken seriously. Yes, some are arguing about its measurements and methodologies, but nobody can deny that we’ve lost a perilous amount of wildlife and are poorer for it.
That’s all we need to know. Except for this: none of us are helpless when it comes to preserving wildlife. Whether we live in the city or the country, there’s lots we can do:
- Buy wood products sourced only from companies adhering to sustainable forestry practices certified by reliable third parties.
- Be careful how you go about killing pests; consider the impacts on other species that may come in contact with it.
- Reduce your energy usage. Climate change is a leading cause of extinction.
- Put decals on your windows, pull the shades during the day, and place bird feeders away from glass surfaces to prevent the residential window collisions that kill up to 435 million birds in the U.S. each year.
- Keep your cats indoors. They’re great pets but devastating predators.
- Put up some bat houses, bird houses, and bee houses. Welcome wildlife into your yard and help it make a home there.
- Maintain a birdbath or small ground-level pool to offer precious water to creatures who often struggle to find some.
- “Disarm” wildlife traps. Things like old fishing line, plastic twine, plastic bags, six-pack holders, open containers, and other refuse are deadly to animals.
- Pick up this litter whenever you see it.
- Preserve the habitat you have. Protect ponds and wetlands, and leave dead trees standing—they offer key food sources and habitats.
Remember that in the web of life, everything depends on everything else. So when, say, you leave a wasp nest alone, you’re not just protecting the creatures inside. You’re also protecting the animals that feed on them to survive. Keep that big picture in mind and down the road it just may still have some wildlife left in it.
About the Inkslinger
The Inkslinger has written about environmental issues for over 20 years and is a freelance writer for some of America's most iconoclastic companies and non-profits. His true loves include nature, music of the Americana/rock and roll variety, interior design, books, old things, good stories, pagan rituals, and his wife of 24 years, with whom he lives in an undisclosed chemical-free rural Vermont location along with his teenage daughter and two infinitely hilarious Australian shepherds.