It’s a sad state of affairs, that in the year 2017, there are lifeforms roaming this earth that still don’t believe in climate change. It’s even sadder when that same species is holding a blind eye to endangered species. This is particularly worrisome, since the planet is entering its sixth mass extinction event — a phenomenon known by few.
Based on fossil records, the rate of extinction on Earth is about two to five species every million years. Estimates of the number of major mass extinctions in the last 540 million years indicate there has been as many as five events since the dawn of time.
Sixth Mass Extinction
So, if mass extinctions in general are dependent on catastrophic events such as climate change, asteroids, toxic volcanoes and/or an ice age, what is the sixth mass extinction going to extinguish.
The World Wildlife Fund (WWF) and the Zoological Society of London (ZSL) have estimated that by 2020, populations of vertebrates will have fallen by 67 per cent since 1970. And extinction rates for many species are now running at 100 times their natural level due to deforestation, hunting, pollution, overfishing and climate change. In essence, man is squarely found at the epicenter of causation regarding this current mass extinction.
It gets political . . .
Climate change and extinction go hand-in-hand in today’s world. Salon reported that “one of the more heartwarming tales of survival involved two adorablle manatees that were stranded when [Hurricane Irma] sucked the water out of Sarasota Bay, which were then saved by local residents.” In this instance, man stepped in to save these magnificent creatures from perishing. However, going forward, these type of interventions may be for naught.
It appears that most of the species protected by the Endangered Species Act are threatened by legislation that’s looking to undermine a 43-year-old law.
Five bills in Congress are attacking the current Endangered Species Act. They are moving forward under the guise of streamlining and improving the law. But what are the real reasons?
The rationale is murky . . .
As it stands at this moment in time, the determination of whether to list a species as endangered or not depends on scientific data.
In HR 2603, this bill aims to exclude non-U.S. species form the most basic protections of the Endangered Species Act. This includes Africa’s most vulnerable species, like elephants an rhinos because the evidence indicates their populations are dwindling exponentially.
On another front, two of the five bills under contention would bring an end to the current endangered species review process altogether.
One, HR 717, would give government agencies the authority to "preclude the listing of a species as threatened due to the likelihood of significant, cumulative economic effects that would result from such listing." The other, HR 1274, would replace the scientific process used to determine a species listing with "data submitted by a state, tribal, or county government."
I told you it gets murky. Sadly, this type of obfuscation and confusing legalese is what gets pushed through the system. This is especially true when laymen like myself do not take the time to deconstruct what is actually being said.
In simpler terms . . .
In essence, the intent of these bills is to show that many endangered species aren’t really endangered after all. The endangered species focused on in these bills are those that have shown to be profitable for certain groups of people, such as big-game hunters, poachers and tradesmen or a nuisance to others, such as the prairie dogs in Utah..
Additionally, the legislative camp in favor of these bills decry budgetary costs involved in protecting endangered species. They refer to bureaucratic inefficiency, taxpayer waste and misguide priorities, where these monies can be transferred to supposedly, more worthwhile causes.
Social Media Backlash
These legislative threats have motivated widespread social media backlash. Most recently, Hollywood stars Debra Messing, Jane Lynch, Jesse Tyler Ferguson, Alan Cumming, Lance Bass and others joined protests, by highlighting the issue of political attacks on the Endangered Species Act in a series of Instagram posts.
"The Endangered Species Act is one of our nation's most effective, popular laws," Marjorie Mulhall, Earthjustice's legislative director for lands, wildlife and oceans, said in a statement.
"These noxious attacks on imperiled wildlife violate the spirit of its enactment, which was to conserve irreplaceable, imperiled species and the ecosystems they depend on. With scientists now warning that we have entered a wave of mass extinctions, federal protections for imperiled plants and wildlife are needed more urgently than ever before. Politicians should be finding ways to strengthen the Endangered Species Act, not render it toothless."
What you can do?
If you are outraged by what Congress is attempting to do, then please take a moment to sign this petition and share with your friends and family members to help gain more support for our planet’s endangered species. Also call and write Republican U.S. senators Orrin Hatch and Mike Lee of Utah. Voice your protests. Make them know know these types of bills should pulled from congressional consideration now.
Primary Source: The Endangered Species Act