The Future of Our Species
Earth is a strange place, full of incredible wonders we have yet to discover and understand. However, one thing is certain: we have had a catastrophic effect on the environment over the past century. Our influence on the environment is a strongly debated topic. Many disagree that we can create an impact powerful enough to alter our climate. We can, and we are to blame for the extinction of our Holocene. We have been destroying our planet for decades, stripping future generations of a comfortable home. With or without the human species, Earth will learn to adapt and new life forms will begin to thrive. Take Chernobyl for example. In April of 1986, a nuclear power plant in Ukraine exploded and the radiation released made the town inhabitable. The radiation from this nuclear plant was the result of fission products that, when released, are rapidly ingested through the air and tend to cause thyroid cancer (Lallanilla 12). By May, no one could come within a 30km radius of the plant, and later 2600km2 of land surrounding the plant was restricted to scientists only (Lallanilla 13). To this day, the towns surrounding Chernoble are largely uninhabited due to the high levels of radiation (Canales 3). The environmental impacts of that disaster were grave. The high levels of radiation killed all the surrounding trees, creating a region of dead trees known as the “Red Forest” due to the trees striking bright ginger colour (Lallanilla 18). This area is expected to be uninhabitable for thousands of years as it takes that long for the radioactive elements to decay (Stierwalt 6). This land may not be safe for humans, but many life forms have adapted and begun to thrive almost 34 years after the accident.
Now that we understand the causes of biodiversity loss, we must understand the importance of biodiversity. Biodiversity is vital to our survival, as well as our planet’s. There is a balance that must be maintained between the variety of different species and their contributions to natural cycles. Extinction of a species can be felt, not only by its respective ecosystem, but by others. Each species contributes something crucial towards maintaining a healthy, stable environment. So when we lose large numbers of species, important cycles such as the carbon cycle are greatly affected (Shaw 5). When a large forest is cut down the amount of carbon it is able to absorb drops. That carbon then rests in the atmosphere, further warming our planet. And the toxic cycle continues. There is a hierarchy of species in our world and if a large amount go extinct, every species will eventually feel that effect. Thus, we experience a great loss of biodiversity.
How do we go about fixing our climate and preserving the future of our species? Luckily for us, there are many things we can do as we are for the most part to blame. We need to restore our biodiversity by returning the climate to its natural state. We can do this by lowering our emissions. Restoring our biodiversity is a complex process that needs the collaboration of everyone to achieve.
Loss of Biodiversity With the understanding that the future of our species is finite, we can begin to discuss how to preserve our climate for generations to come. The loss of biodiversity and climate change are linked. As the Earth warms, many animals and plants die because they cannot withstand the temperature change.
Biodiversity refers to the variety of different species found on Earth. Accordingly, biodiversity loss describes the depletion in the variety of species found on Earth. How is this important and how is it affecting the climate? Humans have affected biodiversity loss in many ways. Deforestation, for example. Cutting down a large area of trees destroys many animals' habitats allowing for less shade, temperature, and moisture regulation which are crucial to many species' survival (Rafferty 3). Clear-cutting is only a sliver of the human impact on the loss of species. There are two types of biodiversity loss, natural and human-caused. Natural biodiversity loss is caused by natural disasters and the changing of seasons. This is temporary as species can adapt and recover (Rafferty 5). However, these natural disasters can be tied back to humans and their behaviour. As our Earth warms, we experience more extreme weather such as forest fires, hurricanes, and floods(Rafferty 5). Human-caused biodiversity loss is the product of activities such as clear-cutting, rerouting water channels, construction, and much more (Rafferty 7). The effects of these activities are long-lasting on the majority of animal habitats. As we continue these activities, we will see a drastic decrease in biodiversity.
Canales, Katie. “Photos Show What Daily Life Is Really like inside Chernobyl's Exclusion Zone, One of the Most Polluted Areas in the World.” Business Insider, Business Insider, 20 Apr. 2020, www.businessinsider.com/what-daily-life-inside-chernobyls-exclusion-zone-is-really-like-2019-4.Gray, Richard. “The True Toll of the Chernobyl Disaster.” BBC Future, BBC, 25 July 2019, www.bbc.com/future/article/20190725-will-we-ever-know-chernobyls-true-death-toll.Lallanilla, Marc. Chernobyl: Facts About the Nuclear Disaster. 20 June 2019, www.livescience.com/39961-chernobyl.html. Rafferty, John P. “Biodiversity Loss.” Encyclopædia Britannica, Encyclopædia Britannica, Inc., 14 June 2019, www.britannica.com/science/biodiversity-loss. Shaw, Julie. “Why Is Biodiversity Important?” Conservation International, 15 Nov. 2018, www.conservation.org/blog/why-is-biodiversity-important/. Stierwalt, Everyday Einstein Sabrina. “What Is Chernobyl Like Today?” Scientific American, Scientific American, 23 Jan. 2020, www.scientificamerican.com/article/what-is-chernobyl-like-today/