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From Kim Dinan, Population and Sustainability Senior Media Specialist
In the past 50 years, the human population has exploded from 3.7 billion to more than 8 billion. At the same time, global wildlife populations have plunged by 69% on average. Two new studies show how population growth is driving many beloved animals to extinction.
The first study, by Population Matters, looks at six iconic species threatened by human population growth. It finds that habitat loss, resource exploitation, invasive species, pollution and climate change all play a role in driving species to the brink.
The other new study, from researchers at Stanford and the National Autonomous University of Mexico, warns that human-driven mass extinction is eliminating entire branches of the tree of life. The authors find that “the size and growth of the human population, the increasing scale of its consumption, and the fact that the consumption is very inequitable” are all part of the problem.
The threats to wildlife and the planet we all call home are dire, but solutions are within our reach if we’re willing to make some simple changes to our lives. Read on to learn more about how Americans feel about alternative economies, resources for secondhand shopping, and effective ways to talk about reducing waste.
Changing hearts and minds is as important a step toward stopping extinctions as the lawsuits and scientific research the Center does to save endangered species. That’s why we’re hosting an #EndangeredCostume showcase to spread the word about saving life on Earth. This Halloween, join Center staff in raising awareness about extinction by dressing up as an endangered species. Check out our costume ideas and DIY guides, and then join us on social media using the #EndangeredCostume hashtag.
Americans Support Alternative Economy Practices
The current U.S. economic system relies on overconsumption, endless growth, and the exploitation of workers and nature. The pursuit of limitless profit drives pollution and climate change, threatening the welfare of people and wildlife alike. Just and sustainable economic alternatives to capitalism already exist in the form of co-ops, credit unions, lending libraries, mutual aid, and so much more. But we’ve got to scale them up.
The Center recently surveyed a representative sample of Americans about their perspectives on the capitalist economy and their knowledge and support of economic alternatives. We found that most Americans support alternative economy examples but face financial and logistical barriers to participating in them.
Here’s one thing you can do: Check out the results of the survey, and then look for alternative economies in your community.
No Sign of Slowing Ag Emissions
A year after the Inflation Reduction Act — a landmark climate bill — was passed, there’s no indication that the United States is even making a dent in agricultural emissions. About 11% of U.S. emissions come from the food system, writes Grace van Deelen for Sentient Media. Not only is the climate bill failing to reduce agricultural emissions — it may include incentives for increasing those emissions.
“It’s too early to say whether or not the Inflation Reduction Act is really having an impact. But it’s not designed to have an impact, because the standards are so low,” said Mark Rifkin, a policy specialist at the Center, in the Sentient Media article.
The best ways to reduce agricultural emissions, Rifkin notes, are with policies that reduce the demand for animal products and to regulate, rather than incentivize, the animal agriculture industry.
Here’s one thing you can do: Check out the Center’s recent analysis showing that the United States lags behind other G20 nations in adding sustainability into its dietary guidelines.
As human population and consumption continue to grow, our burden of waste grows too. Solid waste is an often-ignored source of greenhouse gas emissions, pollution, habitat destruction, and public health risk. People in the United States make up just 5% of the global population but create 30% of the world’s waste.
Americans’ outsized consumption makes identifying effective ways of improving waste-reduction and waste-management practices extremely important. That’s why the Center researched the most effective waste-reduction messages and the public’s understanding of waste-reduction policies. We share our eye-opening findings in our new report Talking Trash: U.S. Perspectives on the Language of Waste Reduction.
Here’s one thing you can do: Check out the latest Resource Recycling for an article summarizing the report.
Make Secondhand Your First Choice
Instead of letting pre-loved items end up in landfills or incinerators — where they can release harmful greenhouse gasses, heavy metals, and other pollutants — donating or trading your things back to the secondhand market puts those things back into circulation, reducing their overall environmental footprint. Plus, when you choose to shop secondhand, you’re avoiding the destructive extraction and production of raw materials that would have gone into making a new product.
The Center has made it easy for you to make secondhand items your first choice. Check out our new resource page with secondhand shopping tips and easy ways to buy secondhand items from the comfort of your own home. We’ve also got some secondhand shopping inspiration on our TikTok channel.
Here’s one thing you can do: Commit to giving secondhand gifts this holiday season. If you need more convincing, visit our Simplify the Holidays website to learn more about the environmental benefits of giving secondhand.
Wildlife Spotlight: Arctic Seals
Ringed seals, who are covered in dark spots surrounded by light gray rings, give birth in snow caves built on top of sea ice. But global warming is reducing the amount of snowpack, causing caves to collapse — leaving seal pups vulnerable to freezing to death or being eaten by predators. Ringed seals also face other threats, including ocean acidification, pollution from shipping, and oil and gas activity — like the recently approved Willow project in Alaska’s Western Arctic Reserve.
In 2008 the Center petitioned to protect ringed seals and their Arctic neighbors, bearded seals, under the Endangered Species Act. Four years later, NOAA Fisheries protected both seals but didn’t give either of them a recovery plan, as the law requires. It has also failed to conduct a review of the ice seals’ status — even though such a review is required every five years for all species protected under the Act.
So this month the Center warned the agency we’ll sue over its failure to properly protect these species .
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Photo credits: Wolf silhouette via Canva; Center staff and family in costume courtesy Center for Biological Diversity; money with sprouted plants via Canva; vegetables via Canva; The Climate-Baby Dilemma trailer screenshot used with permission; graph from Talking Trash report courtesy Center for Biological Diversity; secondhand items via Canva; ringed seal by Michelle Bender/Flickr.
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