Everyone knows about the mass extinction that killed the dinosaurs, but it may be surprising to some that Earth is going through its sixth mass extinction. More species are becoming endangered every year, but most people don’t care enough to help prevent these deaths. Yet for those who understand their importance, it’s clear that biodiversity should be preserved. There’s only one planet we know of that has any form of life, but even with this miracle, humans are slowly killing even the most resilient of creatures.
With every species being unique, it becomes difficult to know which ones to save. Perhaps beauty is the measurement for rescue. After all, a world without tigers or polar bears is unsightly and alarming. Maybe environmental importance is the quantifying factor. If honey bees died, there would be a worldwide panic when only a fraction of crops survive. Yet what about the increasingly rare creatures? Surely, the pangolin and red panda should be rescued at all costs, as their numbers approach zero.
Choosing which creatures to save (and which to leave behind) is a heart-wrenching evaluation. Michael Marshall, a writer for BBC Earth, explains this decision dilemma, claiming when “we value something and are prepared to pay to have it, then it has value” (Marshall, 2015). He believes that the species with the most “value” will be saved, but those left behind will never make it without human assistance. Each person may have a unique preference for which species to save, but there is unanimous agreement that any action is better than none.
Choosing to act is crucial when considering the vast benefits biodiversity brings. There are obvious advantages: pollination, healthy landscapes and tourist attractions. Yet there are other overlooked interests, such as economic considerations. A study in 2010 discovered that as creatures died due to human interaction, the global economy decreased. They predict that there will be an 18% economy loss by 2050 if the current problem continues unchecked.
Even with wildlife’s notability, humans abuse their relationship with nature. We choke the air with smoke, thrive in deforestation and create floating islands of trash in the Atlantic. These choices ultimately have devastating effects on every living creature, making it even more difficult to save them. Some say that with so many factors against biodiversity, it isn’t worth the effort. However, with every failure, we are one step closer to success. Victoria Gill, an environment correspondent for BBC News, mentioned that it took five years of practice and perseverance before an endangered bird was successfully hatched under human care.
Similar stories of struggle are common around the world, and this is why the effort needs to continue: As biodiversity diminishes, so does a part of our world. Some possible solutions include trophy hunting, where most animal protection programs get their funding. We could improve the Endangered Species Act, making animals permissible for assistance much earlier in their spiral to extinction. Another option is to complete more research because we can’t make a good decision without all the variables. When a species is saved, there is nothing that can compare to the relief.
After all, extinction is forever.