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Too Many People: Center Launches Overpopulation Campaign, Members Speak Out

The human population is 6.8 billion and growing every second. The sheer force of our numbers is dominating the planet to such a degree that geologists are contemplating renaming our era the "Anthropocene": the epoch where the human species is the dominant factor affecting land, air, water, soil, and species. We now absorb 42 percent of the planet's entire terrestrial net primary productivity. We use 50 percent of all fresh water. We've transformed 50 percent of all land. We've changed the chemical composition of the whole biosphere and all the world's seas, bringing on global warming and ocean acidification.

Most importantly, we raised the extinction rate from a natural level of one extinction per million species per year up to 30,000 per year. That's three per hour.

That's why today, the Center for Biological Diversity is launching a new Web site to educate people about human overpopulation and how it's driving the sixth great mass extinction in the Earth's 4-billion-year history.

Species Extinction and Human Population

Since we announced the campaign last month, my inbox has been teeming with enthusiastic emails. Donna in Morango Valley, California wrote, "This is such a no-brainer, I can't believe the whole world hasn't jumped on it in order to save the planet and the human species." Ken in McArthur, California declared: "Congratulations to the Center for having the courage to confront the issue of human overpopulation. Most of the leading environmental organizations are absolutely gutless when it comes to this issue, yet it is at the root of nearly all of our environmental problems." Dietrich in Bavaria, Germany put it simply: "This is exactly the lesson we humans have to learn!" We even got a message from a gynecologist who's being trying, apparently without success, to get carbon credits for his family-planning work.

So check out our overpopulation Web site. It's fun (OK, not so fun), fact filled, and will put you on your way to understanding the overpopulation/extinction crisis and how we can ratchet back to a healthy, sustainable population level with less poverty, less stress, and more opportunities for all.

And . . . consider making a donation to our overpopulation work. It's a new program with little funding and very big aspirations. Besides, one of the few good things about overpopulation is that there are lots of you who can contribute to the effort to make less of you.

Too Many Extinctions: Global Extinction Crisis Worse Than Thought

The planet is in the midst of its sixth mass extinction event, the first in 65 million years -- this time, human caused -- and it's even worse than we imagined. A new report published in the international journal Conservation Biology shows that across the planet, nearly 17,000 of the 45,000 assessed species are threatened with extinction. And the crisis is hitting the Oceanic region of Australia, New Zealand, and the Pacific Islands especially hard, turning some of the Earth's most prominent biodiversity hotspots into extinction hotspots. The prime extinction drivers? Habitat loss and degradation, invasive species, climate change, overexploitation, pollution, and wildlife disease. Hmm, these all seem related to overpopulation.

Another report, just published in the journal Science, shows that extinction events tend to wipe out not just individual species, but entire evolutionary lineages -- species with a common ancestor, on the same branch of the tree of life. That means an activity driving one species toward extinction -- say, global warming threatening one type of seabird -- will likely harm all similar species: all seabirds. Of course, that means protecting one species is likely to help protect related species, making conservation all the more vital.

Reining in the extinction crisis is the single greatest challenge ever faced by humanity, and it's what the Center for Biological Diversity was born to do. By battling global warming, overpopulation, overfishing, clear-cutting, strip mining, sprawl, and countless other threats, we're working to protect every branch -- in fact, every leaf -- on the evolutionary tree.

Learn more in the Guardian and from BBC News. Then check out the Center's extinction crisis Web page.

Too Few Wolves . . . But Southwest Wolves Get Big Boost This Week

Mexican gray wolves, one of the most endangered mammals on the planet, are a good example of how the extinction crisis can put an animal on the brink. At the end of 2008, the wild Mexican wolf population was down to just 52 animals and two breeding pairs. But this week, the wolf's outlook improved in three big bursts.

On Tuesday, the Center for Biological Diversity petitioned the Obama administration to upgrade protection of the Mexican gray wolf as a separate subspecies or distinct population. Right now, Mexican wolves are lumped in with other gray wolves on the endangered species list, so there's no identified number of Mexican wolves to aim toward as an endpoint in recovery. If our petition is granted, it will compel the development of a new recovery plan that includes recovery targets, designation of protected critical habitat zones, and expansion of reintroduction efforts.

Also on Tuesday, the Center and allies won a lawsuit against the bizarrely named USDA Wildlife Services, whose main "service" consists of killing and trapping wolves on behalf of public-lands livestock owners. The court ordered the agency to release records detailing where Mexican wolves killed livestock prior to the agency shooting and trapping them. Knowing where, on public lands, the wolves get into trouble will help us advocate for measures to prevent conflicts so the wolves don't pay the price.

In one more piece of good news for Mexican wolves -- including Mexican Mexican wolves -- biologists in the Republic of Mexico announced that this fall they'll begin releasing lobos in the mountains south of the U.S.-Mexico border. If wolves released in Mexico cross the border, they should receive full protection under the Endangered Species Act -- unlike the much-persecuted population in New Mexico and Arizona that has been designated "experimental non-essential." Not only will Mexico's plan help the wolves reclaim more habitat; it will also bolster genetic diversity by promoting connections between different lobo populations. Northern Mexico has lots of wild, wild habitat and we look forward to hear wolves howl from across the border.

Learn more on our petition from the Associated Press and read about the release of wolves in Mexico in the Albuquerque Journal.

KierĂ¡n Suckling
Executive Director

Photo credits: crowd by JD Rhoades; crowd courtesy Wikimedia Commons/Chensiyuan under the GNU free documentation license; California condor by Scott Frier, USFWS; Mexican gray wolves by Val Halstead, Wolf Haven International.

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