Scientists agree that the alarming rate of plant and animal loss is a part of the sixth mass wildlife extinction. And unlike previous extinction periods, the current crisis is caused by human activities.
Steps to take
There are a number of things we can do to fight the destruction we cause to the environment. We must transition from fossil fuels to wildlife-friendly renewable energy, like rooftop solar. We must shift from meat- and dairy-heavy diets toward more plant-based foods. We must rethink our consumer culture and take action to curb our waste, such as eliminating the use of single-use plastics.
But even if we take all of these steps, we’ll still wind up crowding out wildlife. Because as wildlife populations have been shrinking, our population has skyrocketed.
We add 227,000 people to the planet every day. There are more than 7.6 billion people in the world, with the United States ranked as the third-most populous country. And if current trends continue, the United Nations predicts that global population will reach 9.8 billion by 2050 and exceed 11 billion by 2100.
Every person on the planet requires land, water, energy and other natural resources to produce food, shelter and address other basic needs. In countries like the United States, we live far beyond those basic needs.
We’re hurting wildlife
So as our population grows, we push wildlife from their homes to create ours. We use and pollute water that they need to survive. And our careless overconsumption and destructive production practices have a lasting toll on habitat and the climate.
But there’s good news. One key solution to this problem is to make sure every person on the planet can choose if and when to have children. When people have reproductive freedom, they tend to choose smaller families.
By providing universal access to contraception and family planning, we can improve human rights, reduce fertility rates and curb population growth.
Unfortunately, worldwide more than 200 million women have an unmet contraception needs. And in the United States, nearly half of all pregnancies are unintended.
If we’re going to successfully improve the outlook and health of other species, we need to start with our own. That means making it a priority to protect family planning and equal rights. Our planet depends on it.
Stephanie Feldstein, Population and Sustainability Director, Center for Biological Diversity, [email protected]