Endangered species, such as leopards, rhinos and the leatherback sea turtle are well-known. However, species are now becoming extinct that were never once discovered. At least 10,000 species will become extinct this year.
The current rate of extinction experienced in the past century is over 100 times higher than the natural background rate of extinction. At a natural rate this current extinction event would have occurred steadily over 800 to 10,000 years. This sixth mass extinction is the greatest yet and known to be human activity induced. As daunting as it seems, there are changes you can make to help to halt this extinction progression.
The Flexitarian Lifestyle
Flexitarianism, or semi-vegetarianism, may just seem like any other promoted dietary regime, however there are possible benefits for ourselves and the environment. We are currently headed down an unsustainable course; steering towards the limits of global agriculture. The main driver of this mass extinction is loss of habitats. Natural complex habitats are converted into simple systems designed to produce harvestable goods for people. The agricultural industry paves the way for habitat loss as many areas are deforested into fields catering crops and livestock.
Flexitarianism involves semi-vegetarianism which reduces an individual’s meat-consumption by incorporating more plant-based foods into their diet. Although a relatively new movement, of 25 studies evaluated, evidence suggested better metabolic health, blood pressure and reduced risk of type 2 diabetes can be experienced through a flexitarian lifestyle. The increase of plant-based food consumption increases the essential vitamins and minerals needed to maintain normal bodily function. This non-strict vegetarian diet allows flexibility through occasional meat consumption. Careful attention to what we eat daily by planning meals throughout the week will allow the behaviour change needed to meet the guidelines for this diet.
The Benefits of Bees
It is also important to consider that different species maintain different processes within ecosystems. These processes include pollination, needed to provide 15-30% of the human food supply. Pollinating insect species include bees, Masarinae pollen wasps, flower beetles and both butterflies and moths. 40% of insect species have declined with a third now classified as endangered including pollinating insects. This species loss is driven primarily by climate change. Flowers in spring are blooming earlier than normal and are around for a shorter period of time for pollination. There are ways to encourage pollinators by using pollinator-friendly plants including blueberry, cherry and plum trees in spring. In summer, flowers of different scents and varieties can be planted anywhere suitable. Reducing or removing pesticide use in gardens prevents unnecessary pollinator deaths. In urban areas, floral gardens are crucial for pollinators. Bee species richness and diversity was found to be higher in sites with a clustered number of flowers compared to a smaller, patchier flower communities. A small, blossoming garden can make all the difference in an urbanised setting.
The impact of plastics and microplastics
Plastic plays a large role in our lives, we come into contact with it almost constantly. Single-use plastics come in the form of straws, plastic water bottles, toothbrushes and containers. Although legal action has been taken, plastic microbeads, are still found in facial washes and toothpastes. Synthetic clothing such as polyester and nylon can be avoided and replaced with environmentally-friendly cotton and linen. Almost 1,900 microfibers of plastic are released from a single garment when washed. In 2010, 8 million tonnes of plastic entered the ocean, where 60% accumulated into the Pacific Ocean. Worldwide, 700 species are at risk of extinction through regular plastic ingestion. When ingested by fish they persist and when eaten by larger predators the plastic bioaccumulates up the food chain. The effects of us consuming plastics also has carcinogenic risks.
Across the world, more countries issue a climate crisis everyday, with direct action needed. The threat of extinction of species persists, with an increasing number of species lost each year, every individual’s actions count toward averting this crisis. This can be done through diet changes, increasing botanical activities and avoiding certain plastics. The choice is now down to you to take action.