A new study in Nature reports that early-1980s predictions that as many as half the species on Earth would be lost by 2000 were “overestimated.” Nevertheless, “… the next mass extinction may be upon us or just around the corner. There have been five mass extinctions in the history of the Earth, and we could be entering the sixth mass extinction,” say the study authors in their media release.
What is to be done? Researcher Stephen Hubbell said,
“… [the public should spend more time enjoying nature], especially if it’s going to be here today, gone tomorrow. If we don’t take steps to preserve animals and plants that we care about, they are going to be gone. “When I was a kid, I spent a lot of time doing non-macho things like collecting butterflies and turning over rocks. The only way we’re going to save nature is by making sure future generations experience nature. People who have never seen wild nature don’t miss it and don’t realize how impoverished their lives have become due to its loss. I worry about the loss of a conservation ethic among the public. Go to the tropics. Experience a rain forest — while you still can.”
Putting aside that past failed predictions don’t enhance confidence in new predictions, it’s difficult to take seriously people who speak in terms of “saving nature.” What does that mean? Is nature going extinct? Civil rights for plants and animals? Condemning poor countries and peoples to poverty?
Assuming that Hubbell and his ilk are sincerely concerned about endangered species, it would help their case if they just published the facts and left the drama at home.