Each year, April 22 is observed as the Earth Day.
Each year, April 22 is observed as the Earth Day. It serves as a day of action that changes human behavior and provokes policy changes for a clean environment.
April 22 marks the anniversary of the birth of the modern environmental movement in 1970. The idea for a national day to focus on the environment came to Earth Day founder Gaylord Nelson, then a U.S. Senator from Wisconsin, after witnessing the ravages of the 1969 massive oil spill in Santa Barbara, California.
Earth Day had reached into its current status as the largest secular observance in the world, celebrated by more than a billion people every year as a day of political action and civic participation for protecting God’s greatest creations, humans, biodiversity and the planet that we all live on.
Theme for 2019
"Protect our species" is the theme for the Earth day 2019.
Nature’s gifts to our planet are the millions of species that we know and love, and many more that remain to be discovered. Unfortunately, human beings have irrevocably upset the balance of nature and, as a result, the world is facing the greatest rate of extinction since we lost the dinosaurs more than 60 million years ago. But unlike the fate of the dinosaurs, the rapid extinction of species in our world today is the result of human activity.
The unprecedented global destruction and rapid reduction of plant and wildlife populations are directly linked to causes driven by human activity: climate change, deforestation, habitat loss, trafficking and poaching, unsustainable agriculture, pollution and pesticides to name a few. The impacts are far reaching.
If we do not act now, extinction may be humanity’s most enduring legacy.
The Faces of Species Loss
In order to take action to protect species, the world’s governments, scientists, and conservation organizations need a system to identify species that are under threat and define the seriousness of the threat they are facing. The International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) is the global authority on the conservation status of species. It has developed a list, “The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species”, which is updated on an ongoing basis.
IUCN classifies species status in the following categories:
- EXTINCT (EX)
- EXTINCT IN THE WILD (EW)
- CRITICALLY ENDANGERED (CR)
- ENDANGERED (EN)
- VULNERABLE (VU)
- NEAR THREATENED (NT)
- LEAST CONCERN (LC)
- DATA DEFICIENT (DD)
Classification is determined on the basis of five criteria: rate of decline of the population, geographic range of the population, the total size of the population, restrictions on the population, and the likelihood of extinction.
IUCN’s classifications do not automatically convey any level of protection to a species. The Red List is a scientific publication to inform governments and other legal bodies on the facts about each known species. Government entities or international bodies can then place threatened species under legal protections provided by existing laws or treaties. Classifying a species as threatened might also lead to the passage of a new policy or piece of legislation aimed at protecting that specific species.
What Is Causing this Extinction Process?
- Over exploitation of species
- Food: Since the dawn of the human species, we have relied on plants and other animals for food. As the human population skyrocketed, this consumption quickly became unsustainable. We have overfished our waters and hunted many species of animals to extinction. It is unlikely that humans will ever stop consuming other animals completely, but it is entirely possible for us to consume them in a sustainable way.
- Labor: Humans have used animals as laborers and entertainment for thousands of years, often causing them harm. Elephants, for example, are taken from their natural habitat to carry cargo or perform for tourists or being part of a circus. These animals are usually subjected to inhumane treatment until they submit to commands.
- Illegal wildlife trade: Illegal hunting - known as poaching and illegal trade of wildlife products is a major direct threat to the future of many of the world’s most threatened species. Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Flauna and Flora (CITES) is an international agreement between governments. Its aim is to ensure that international trade in specimens of wild animals and plants does not threaten their survival.
- Habitat destruction: A bulldozer pushing down trees is the iconic image of habitat destruction. Other ways people directly destroy habitat: filling in wetlands, dredging rivers, mowing fields, and cutting down trees.
- Habitat fragmentation: Much of the remaining terrestrial wildlife habitat has been cut up into fragments by roads and development. Aquatic species’ habitats have been split up by dams and water diversions. These remaining fragments may be too small to sup-port species that need larger territories to find mates and food. The loss and fragmentation of habitats also makes it difficult for migratory species to find places to rest and feed along their migration routes.
- Habitat degradation: Habitats can become so degraded they can no longer support native wildlife, as a result of pollution, invasive species and disruption of ecosystem processes, such as the changing intensity of fires in an ecosystem. Recently, pesticide use has been recognized as another major cause of habitat degradation. Heavy pesticide use in agricultural areas can leave downstream habitats dangerous for some species, especially certain invertebrates and plants.
As climate change alters the Earth’s temperature and weather patterns, it also impacts plant and animal life. Scientists expect that the number, range, and variety of species will decline greatly as global temperatures continue to rise.
Human actions, such as spreading non-native species, have increasingly driven evolution. This is known as the global homogenization of flora and fauna. Biotic homogenization is an emerging, yet pervasive, threat in the ongoing biodiversity crisis. Originally, ecologists defined biotic homogenization as the replacement of native species by exotic or introduced species, but this phenomenon is now more broadly recognized as the process by which ecosystems lose their biological uniqueness and uniformity grows. As global transportation becomes faster and more frequent, it is inevitable that species intermixing will increase. Unique local flora or fauna that become extinct are often replaced by already widespread flora or fauna that are more adapted to tolerate human activities. This process is affecting all aspects of our natural world.
In countries around the world, policies have been enacted that have led to the extinction or near extinction of specific species. Chemical products, especially neonicotinoid pesticides, have been shown to harm bees and other pollinators. These chemicals have been linked to a phenomenon known as colony collapse disorder, where bees get separated from their hives. The decline in bees poses a serious threat, as bees are responsible for pollinating much of the food we grow to feed ourselves and livestock. Without bees, the global food supply chain would be irreparably damaged.
Source : Earth Day Network