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How agriculture hastens species extinction

This week on 60 Minutes, correspondent Scott Pelley reports on something scientists are calling the sixth mass extinction. There have been 5 nice die-offs within the historical past of our planet, when a minimum of 75 p.c of the recognized species disappear. The final mass extinction was 66 million years in the past, when an asteroid worn out the dinosaurs. Now scientists assume people are hastening one other mass annihilation of vegetation and animals. Among the many causes this time are air pollution, habitat destruction, over-exploitation of assets, and local weather change.

Mexican ecologist Gerardo Ceballos is among the many world’s main scientists on extinction. He laid out for us how dire the scenario has turn out to be over the past century.

Gerardo Ceballos: There may be solely 2 p.c of the massive fishes that have been within the oceans 50 years in the past. Solely 2 p.c reside. We now have misplaced round 70 p.c of all of the animals that have been in the– within the planet. All the massive animals, all of the mammals, hen, 70 p.c are gone since 1918. In Southeast Asia, you understand, we’ve misplaced 90 p.c of the tropical forest of Southeast Asia since 2000. So, our influence is so large that we have gotten this meteorite that’s influence the planet. The distinction with the earlier mass extinction is that they took tens of 1000’s, lots of of thousand, even tens of millions of years to occur. On this explicit case, that is taking place so quick, now in simply two, three a long time — even the species that aren’t affected instantly by the extinction disaster will not have sufficient time to evolve and survive this influence that we’re doing. 

Each two years, the World Wildlife Fund produces a doc referred to as the “living planet report.” It is a biennial report card that particulars the well being of planet earth’s wildlife, exhibiting the common decline of species populations since they have been first monitored in 1970.

Rebecca Shaw: We noticed a extremely massive change between the 2018 report and the 2020 report that stunned us. It went from it went from 64 p.c to 68 p.c. You would not anticipate to see that massive decline in two years.

Rebecca Shaw is chief scientist and senior vp on the World Wildlife Fund.

Rebecca Shaw: The factor that undermines species populations globally, the primary factor is habitat destruction. And that habitat destruction normally comes from the growth of agricultural land. So mowing down the tropical rainforest to plant soy, or to plant corn, or to graze cows. We now not have the providers that these rainforests give us, like stabilizing the planet’s local weather, like stabilizing climate patterns, like producing meals and recent water. We use 70 p.c of all of the freshwater on the planet to irrigate our crops.

Scott Pelley: Did you simply say that 70 p.c of the freshwater on the planet is used for irrigation?

Rebecca Shaw: Sure, is altered for the needs of meals manufacturing and irrigation. 

Scott Pelley: Is there something that may be achieved to reverse this course of? And if that’s the case, what’s it?

Rebecca Shaw: Probably the most vital issues we will do shifting ahead is to actually get so a lot better at what we produce, the place we produce it, how we produce it. Guarantee that we’re consuming meals which can be planet pleasant and species pleasant and that we do not waste meals. Proper now, 40 p.c of all meals that’s produced is wasted. And if that is the case, it means you’ll want to do a 40 p.c greater draw on nature as a way to produce that meals. And so, cease losing meals.  

The scientists 60 Minutes spoke stated that, with out altering our conduct, this extinction disaster will turn out to be irreversible.

Rebecca Shaw: Not one of the dinosaurs made it by way of the final mass extinction. People will not make it by way of this mass extinction.

Scott Pelley: Why not?

Rebecca Shaw: As a result of we require a lot of nature, and pure assets, and stability from nature, and stability from the local weather as a way to thrive. And if we’re not thriving, if we do not have meals to eat, recent water, clear air, we can’t thrive, and we can’t survive. I actually do really feel like we’ve the possibility and the chance to work collectively to cease local weather change, to cease the decline of biodiversity. And we achieve this for our personal good. And I believe we’ll determine it out. We simply have to determine quicker than we most likely will.

Scott Pelley: It has to occur on this era?

Rebecca Shaw: It does. It does.

The video above was produced by Brit McCandless Farmer and Will Croxton. It was edited by Will Croxton.

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