Several studies warn that the current loss and decline of species is contributing to what appears to be the beginning of earth’s sixth mass extinction. More than 400 species have gone extinct in the last 100 years. And scientists suggest up to 37 percent of the world’s species could go extinct within the next 35 years.
Climate change is certainly a major culprit. But a new report out of Florida International University also blames land degradation, pollution, and deforestation driven by rising global demand for meat as “likely the leading cause of modern species extinction.”
Biodiversity hotspots – areas where many species flourish – have diminished nearly 90%. Making matters worse, these biodiverse regions are areas where livestock production is most likely to expand, which could lead to an additional 50 percent loss of these valued lands in the future.
“Those areas are truly unique in their contribution to biodiversity.”
Gidon Eshel is a research professor of environmental physics at Bard College.
“They’re really not unique – they’re run of the mill in their contribution to overall global food production. Therefore, sacrificing them is (a) very unreasonable choice.”
The Florida International University researchers suggest people should reduce meat in their diets to a once-daily serving that’s about the size of a deck of playing cards. Eshel has some suggestions as well.
“Definitely avoid beef at all costs whenever possible. With much reduced urgency, avoid all other animal products.”
We all need to do our part to prevent further loss of biodiversity.
Full interview with Gidon Eshel, a research professor of environmental physics at Bard College
Photo, posted May 6, 2015, courtesy of John Loo via Flickr.
Earth Wise is a production of WAMC Northeast Public Radio.