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Species extinction

To support each American citizen, 12 acres of land must be developed, i.e., taken out of its natural setting. It must be paved over, planted in crops, built into suburbs, schools, colleges, fire houses, malls, roads and everything that sustains our society. That means the next added 100 million Americans wreak havoc on the natural world in an ever more deadly population dance.

If I could lead several hundred million average Americans to China at 1.3 billion, India at 1.1 billion or Bangladesh with 129 million people in a landmass the size of Ohio--for a week tour of THEIR population nightmares, you'd see a massive throng of Americans demanding our borders be closed as well as a national population policy implemented.

As we add that next 100 million to America, it means we reduce habitat for all other plant and animal life.

With the United States growing by three million people annually, that equals 36 million acres transformed from the natural world into the unnatural. That means animal habitat diminishes by 36 million acres each year. It means they can't eat, drink, find shelter or procreate their species. If you look at the annual road-kill, they can't make it across our highways without being slaughtered by the millions.

Within the past 100 years, Americans, ever expanding across the land--destroyed 50 percent of all wetlands in the lower 48 states. That means water sources no longer exist for ducks, geese, beavers and millions of other animals.

Today, 6,330 animal species in North America teeter on the edge of extinction. The National Academy of Sciences predicts 2,500 plants and animals go extinct every decade from habitat loss. At some point, these extinction rates create a "cascading" effect for all other dependent species. We all answer to an intertwined ecosystem.

In the West, the prairie dog provides sustenance for 67 other creatures in the food chain. Over half of prairie dog colonies suffered human development destruction in the past 20 years. As their numbers plummeted, every creature depending on those rodents declined commensurately. In Denver, where eagles and hawks once soared daily in the skies, they no longer exist. You can see, however, a brown cloud of pollution from horizon to horizon.

In southern California, those majestic California condors do not soar on heat thermals any longer, but must be kept in cages to preserve a few dozen left alive. Most duck populations suffered from 25 to 50 percent decline in the last half century.

As you can't see a tsunami until it hits, you're invited to step into growing 'unseen' consequences pushed by the next added 100 million Americans.
I think Chief Seattle said, "What humans do to the web of life, they also do unto themselves."

In a report in the Boston Globe, October 19, 2006, by John Donnelly, "Scientists alarmed at loss of pollinators," he reports rapidly dropping numbers of birds, bees and bats could impact humanity's food supply.

Most plants depend on their pollen being picked up by birds, bats and bees to be distributed so that fruits, nuts and vegetables can grow.

In Colorado's eastern plains, in 2006, farmers imported beekeepers with their mobile bee hives to pollinate crops. The lack of bees in the United States created the first imports of bees since 1922.

"In addition," Donnelly reported, "wild pollinators from bumblebees to butterflies to nocturnal moths-have lost much of their habitat, due to vast use of pesticides and herbicides that kill plants and hedges in which the insects and birds live."

Most Americans reading this column eat fruits and vegetables from fields sprayed with poisons and soils injected with chemical fertilizers. Is it any wonder, in a secondary arena of our dining rooms, we ingest chemicalized foods that cause us cancers? Can you imagine what happens to the birds, bees and bats-not to mention the insects-that die or become mutated by man-made chemicals?

I am troubled by Americans' total disregard for their fellow creatures. In 1800, over one billion bison roamed the western prairie. A billion carrier pigeons blackened the migratory sky. When I was a kid, geese and other birds flew over our house in wave after wave, week after week. No more! You're lucky to see a few hundred buffalo in Yellowstone National Park. You'll never see a carrier pigeon because Americans shot them into extinction. Grizzlies regress into non-existence. I find it almost hilarious that Americans leap out of their cars to see a moose, buffalo, grizzly and other great beasts, but they won't stop their own numbers to allow such creatures enough habitats to live.

With our causing the extinction of 2,500 plants and animals every 10 years, that number can only grow in the coming decades as we encroach further on their habitat. What moral and/or ethical question does that bring to mind? What right does a cognitive species pretend to possess to create such a killing spree on other species that can't think or fight for their survival? How far and how many other North American species do we expect to vanish forever to benefit our relentless expansion?

What might be the optimum number of extinct species that would fall short of the "cascading effect?" At what point would we supersede the "cascading effect" to create an avalanche of even more extinctions of other creatures that depended on the web of life?

At what point would that affect human survival as in the case of the pollinators?

As you can see in this series, we already create horrific consequences in the natural world with our current 300 million Americans. As mentioned in Part 4 about destroying our oceans, a PBS show last week showed hundreds of thousands of tons of discarded fishing nets retrieved by Scuba divers. The nets had been destroying reefs and marine life because nothing in nature could deal with the nylon. It rolled around the ocean bottom, washed by eternal tides, while it destroyed millions of marine creatures caught in its indolent grasp.

Fishing captains cut it loose-knowing the kind of death their nets created for all marine life victimized by those man-made products. How morally unconscionable and utterly reprehensible!

Let's fast-forward to 2040 with another 100 million people added to North America. Remember, the human race globally will have added two billion more humans by that time. Their impact can only multiply our impact for a devastating species extinction die-off unprecedented in history. In fact, scientists tell us that five extinction sessions occurred since the dawn of time. The sixth one moves forward in this century. What's causing it? We are!

At some point, nature resembles a house made of cards--delicate. Humans resemble Katrina's destructive power in a Sri Lanka tsunami-type process. How far down that gopher hole can we afford to go and how will it affect our children at the mid century?
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Frosty Wooldridge Bio: Frosty Wooldridge possesses a unique view of the world, cultures and families in that he has bicycled around the globe 100,000 miles, on six continents and six times across the United States in the past 30 years. His books (more...)
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