Populations of the world’s wild animals have fallen by more than 50 percent in recent decades and humanity is to blame. The popular news magazine, THE WEEK, reported on February 22, 2019, that the swelling human population (now 7.5 billion and mushrooming) has already had devastating impacts on the Earth’s wildlife. We’ve driven thousands of species to the edge of extinction through habitat loss, overfishing and hunting, trophy animal collection, introduction of harmful invasive species, toxic pollution, and climate change. Over the past 40 years, the number of wild animals–mammals, birds, reptiles, amphibians, insects, and marine life–have plunged by 50 percent. The World Wildlife Fund (WWF) estimates that populations of higher-order vertebrate animal species have decreased by an average of 60 percent since 1970. <<continued . . .>>
This year, with clear evidence that the Trump Administration is jeopardizing many U.S. environmental conservation and protection programs and policies, with hugely damaging consequences, Gary E. Machlis, former National Park Service science advisor (and Clemson University professor of environmental sustainability), and Jonathan B. Jarvis, retired NPS career professional and national director from 2009 to 2017, co-authored an important and inspirational book. The Future of Conservation in America: a Chart for Rough Water (University of Chicago Press) asserts that we are in a period of “rough water,” affecting many environmental assets and conservation programs. The authors identify three major environmental and social threats (and the dangerous irresponsibility of denying them) confronting America: climate change, species extinction, and economic inequality. Actions are required to navigate through the very rough waters facing us. It is essential to assure that the conservation movement is understood by Americans (and especially by young people) as critically relevant to public health and interest. A general re-commitment to environmental conservation and protection is necessary. <<continued>>
Our hearts go out to all the communities recently impacted by catastrophic hurricanes and floods. The magnitude of devastation is shocking. Many of us are contributing to disaster relief funds, and wondering what more we can do. As climate change contributes to more intense storm events, there will be increased need for land conservation and water protection groups to be involved in community-based disaster preparedness and emergency response, and also in proactive conservation planning and public education to reduce vulnerabilities to flood and storm disasters. Many land and water conservation groups already are collaborating across sectors to build resilient ecological and social systems that mitigate the impact of natural disasters before they occur.
--Chuck Roe, President, Southern Conservation Partners
Renowned journalist and commentator Thomas Friedman published “Thank You for Being Late: An Optimist’s Guide to Thriving in the Age of Accelerations” last year. After reviewing the accelerating environmental damages, stresses, and desperate condition of the Earth (“Mother Nature,” in his terminology) and its ecological systems and climate, Friedman quotes oceanographer Sylvia Earle’s succinct summation: “What we do right now, or fail to do, will determine the future—not just for us, but for all life on Earth.”
Friedman’s own conclusion, upon reviewing our current state of phenomenal, unparalleled accelerations in technological, socio-economic, and environmental changes, is that, with our insults to the natural environment and human population TRIPLING in size in only 60 years (and with, currently, 1 of every 122 people on Earth a displaced refugee), we are on the verge of irreversible alteration of the Earth’s ecological balances and are at risk of wrecking our global climate, biodiversity, oceans, and ecosystem stabilizers and boundaries. "Without compounding, multiplicative commitments along all fronts that are commensurate with the magnitude of the challenge we face, we stand NO chance –zero--of preserving a stable planet when there will be so many more people, armed with so many more powerful tools, propelled by a supernova [that of electronic and digital technologies; and the internet information cloud] … I will keep saying … as long as I have the breath: we are the first generation for whom ‘later’ will be the time when all of Mother Nature’s buffers, spare tires, tricks of the trade, and tools for adapting and bouncing back will be exhausted or breached. If we don’t act quickly together to mitigate these trends, we will be the first generation of humans for whom later will be too late.”
Friedman directs us to use Mother Nature as a mentor for societal and political adaptation and resilience, and to embrace diversity and change. With hopeful optimism he suggests we can learn from and employ experiences from local communities, such as his home town in Minnesota, that have overcome challenges effectively and have embraced and grown from social, ethnic, and economic diversity. There is no better time than now to pause, find your community and place in which to join with others, and get to work.
--Chuck Roe, President, Southern Conservation Partners
E.O. Wilson concludes his latest impassioned appeal for the defense and survival of the Earth’s biodiversity this way:
We should forever bear in mind that the beautiful world our species inherited took the planet 3.8 billion years to build. The intricacy of its species we know only in part, and the way they work together to create a sustainable balance we have only recently begun to grasp. Like it or not, and prepared or not, we are the mind and stewards of the living world. Our own ultimate future depends upon that understanding. We have come a very long way through the barbaric period in which we still live, and now I believe we’ve learned enough to adopt a transcendent moral precept concerning the rest of life. It is simple and easy to say: Do no further harm to the biosphere.
In his 2016 book, “Half-Earth: Our Planet’s Fight for Life" . . .
As much progress as we have made to safeguard our natural heritage and defend our environmental resources, our present situation seems grim and the future is uncertain, particularly with the twin perils facing us in the domestic political arena and the dramatic consequences of world climate change. I am reminded of the fact that, despite our many gains, our situation is not all that different from what U.S. President Franklin D. Roosevelt observed more than 75 years ago when he dedicated the new Great Smoky Mountains National Park in an address at Newfound Gap, on the North Carolina – Tennessee border, on September 2, 1940:
We used up or destroyed much of our natural heritage just because that heritage was so bountiful. . . . We slashed our forests, we used our soils, we encouraged floods . . . all of this so greatly that we were brought rather suddenly to face the fact that unless we gave thought to the lives of our children and grandchildren, they would no longer be able to live and to improve upon our American way of life.
In 1940 President Roosevelt and the country were preparing for entry into World War II. Even while preparing for war, FDR’s favorite slogan was, “Conservation is a basis for permanent peace.” He was fundamentally concerned for America’s environmental “infrastructure” and future security and well-being.
Now worldwide climate change--largely human caused--is threatening us. Elsewhere on our ConservationSouth website, you will find links to numerous resources that may help in the effort to respond and adapt to climate change. For further inspiration, we direct you to Bill McKibben's August 2016 article in the New Republic, “A World at War.” McKibben, Schumann Distinguished Scholar at Middlebury College and co-founder of the climate group 350.org, has issued an important call to arms.
--Chuck Roe, SCP President
Conservation, viewed in its entirety, is the slow and laborious unfolding of a new relationship between people and land.
There is in fact no distinction between the fate of the land and the fate of the people. When one is abused, the other suffers.
From the President
SCP President Chuck Roe looked at land conservation along the route of John Muir's "Southern Trek."
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