Should humans should be responsible for preserving endangered species and natural resources? Essay
The survival of humanity has always been dependent on functioning ecosystems and our natural resources. In the past hunter/gatherer societies had a low population density and were largely nomadic which gave the environment time to replenish and regenerated any resources that were used. As the population increased and humanity advanced, resources were depleted faster with less time for recovery. The species Homo sapiens is unprecedented and unparalleled among all life on Earth in that it’s sentience and intelligence far exceeds those of other creatures.
As such it is only natural to question if humans should be responsible for preserving endangered species and natural resources. In Our Vanishing Wildlife Theodore Roosevelt stated: “We are, as a whole, still in that low state of civilization where we do not understand that it is also vandalism wantonly to destroy or permit the destruction of what is beautiful in nature, whether it be a cliff, a forest, or a species of mammal or bird.
Here in the United States we turn our rivers and streams into sewers and dumping-grounds, we pollute the air, we destroy forests and exterminate fishes, birds and mammals’ not to speak of vulgarizing charming landscapes with hideous advertisement” (In the Words…) Even though President Roosevelt brought these environmental issues to the forefront during the early nineteenth century it is still very much an issue today. Due to our invasive behavior on the environment, it is society’s responsibility to protect endangered species and conserve our environmental resources.
An invasive species by definition is a species that is non-native to the ecosystem under consideration and whose introduction causes or is likely to cause economic or environmental harm or harm to human health (National Invasive). Though mankind is not technically an invasive species since we are a native species to our habitat, we exhibit many qualities of one. Such as being widespread, displacing other species, and most significantly causing environmental and economic harm to the Earth. A wide known cause of our impact is the depletion of the ozone layer.
The stratosphere has a layer of ozone that protects us from the harmful ultraviolet (UV) rays of the sun. Exposure to these rays cause skin cancer and cataracts. However, the ozone layer filters out the dangerous UV rays from sunlight as it enters the earth’s atmosphere. Chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) are man-made chemicals that are released in the atmosphere through CFC containing aerosols, refrigeration equipment, and foam.
As these chemicals are released, they rise into the atmosphere and break down the ozone molecules that form the ozone layer (Miller, Tyler G. . There is an ozone hole in the Antarctic stratosphere that is causing great concern to environmentalists all over the world. This depression in the upper atmosphere causes the Earth to receive excessive ultraviolet radiation from the sun. This is not only harmful for trees and plants but also for animals and human beings who depend upon these plants for survival (Miller, Tyler G. ). The UV rays can destroy a certain type of bacteria known as Cyanobacteria that are important for a number of economically important crops.
Researchers are even predicting that excess level of UV rays could lead to the death of the phytoplankton that are an important component in the food web of the oceans. Extra ultraviolet B radiation that reaches the Earth can stunt the reproductive cycle of phytoplankton, single-celled organisms such as algae that make up the lowermost level of the food chain. Biologists fear that reductions in phytoplankton populations will in turn lower the populations of other animals (National Geographic).
The hole in the Ozone is also affecting coral reefs and the creatures that are dependent on them. Zooxanthellae live symbiotically within the coral polyp tissues and assist the coral in nutrient production through its photosynthetic activities. These activities provide the coral with fixed carbon compounds for energy, enhance calcification, and mediate elemental nutrient flux. The host coral polyp in return provides its zooxanthellae with a protected environment to live within, and a steady supply of carbon dioxide for its photosynthetic processes.
Coral are very sensitive to change and have certain zones of tolerance to water temperature, salinity, UV radiation, opacity, and nutrient quantities, bleaching occurs when one or more of these are altered. Increased sea temperatures resulting from climate change, solar radiation (especially UV radiation), and carbon absorption causes these changes in the coral’s environment. Scientists estimate we will lost up to seventy percent of the corals reeds by 2050 if we don’t take action. Many of the fish that are dependent on coral reefs for food and shelter die out along with the coral (Miller, Tyler).
Among these fish many are commercially important species targeted for fishing. The fish that grow and live on coral reefs are a significant food source for over a billion people worldwide—many of whom live far from the reefs that feed them. Of that number, at least 85 percent of the people in East Asia rely principally on fish as their major source of protein (Fisheries). The depletion of the ozone is one of many examples of how the invasive nature of mankind’s technological advances effects the ecosystems and resources of our planet.
If society refuses to correct the problem with the ozone and prevent further damage mankind will soon feel the consequences. Beyond the effects on the stratosphere our invasive nature also has widespread affects closer to home. Industries release gallons of liquid waste into the seas and rivers, some of which percolate down and reach the ground water, polluting it to the extent that it cannot be used by human beings for drinking or cooking. Water pollution has led to a decrease in the number of various aquatic animals.
Several aquatic life forms are on the verge of extinction such as manatees, and several species of dolphins, whales and salmon (Threatened). Migratory birds are known to change their course due to pollution or change in weather. Intensive agriculture and excessive use of fertilizers and pesticides are destroying the natural land and driving animals away. Respiratory diseases in human beings are another price that we are paying for polluting the environment, ingestion or inhalation of toxic substances increases the chances of having life-threatening diseases like cancer.
Acid rain can kill trees, destroy crops and fish life in lakes and streams (Tyler, Miller G. ). Pollution not only impacts the health of humans but also their economic wellbeing. As species become extinct, food sources that we were once able to harvest are lost. For example oysters have always been a profitable export for Maryland’s fishermen, but as the bay becomes more polluted and oyster populations have dropped those dependent on oyster crops as income have suffered (Department of the Environment).
For many people it is easier to see the effects of environmental mismanagement closer to home but deforestation in the rainforest also has deep running implications. More than half of Earth’s tropical rainforests have already been lost forever to the ravenous human demand for wood and arable land. If current deforestation rates continue, these important habitats could very well disappear in the next hundred years. Rainforests that once grew over 14 percent of the land on Earth now cover only about 6 percent yet they support about half of all the species on Earth (Koyuncu, Rasim 213).
Many of these species are specialized to minute habitats within the forest; this specialization makes them extremely vulnerable to endangerment and even extinction. Rainforests currently provide half of today’s medicines derived from these flora and fauna; these include pharmaceutical and medicinal medicines. Seventy percent of the plants found to have anti-cancer properties are found exclusively in the tropical rainforests. Rainforests and their vast undiscovered biodiversity hold the key to unlocking tomorrow’s cures.
In addition rainforests have often been call the “Lungs of our Planet” because they are continuously recycling carbon dioxide into oxygen. More than 20 percent of the world’s oxygen is produced in the Amazon Rainforest (National Geographic). While the previous points may make our environmental prospects sound bleak with proper environmental stewardship we can preserve our resources and prevent further damage. This environmental worldview says that humans have an ethical responsibility to be caring managers, or stewards of the earth because we are the dominant species.
If an animal is threatened because of our impact on its environment then we should safeguard it. On the other hand if it is endangered because of its inability to survive against the competition of its natural habitat, then we have no right to interfere. “Survival of the fittest” is a natural concept and has been occurring long before we evolved. When we use the Earth’s natural resources we have an ethical responsibility to pay them back leaving the earth in the same state as we once enjoyed.
These capitals should not be exploited or squandered and with the right management strategies the population will not run out (Miller, Tyler G. ). The Earth’s resources are limited; they do not exist in infinite quantities. Many of the Earth’s resources can either be regenerated or recycled, but that only happens over time; usually a long time. In the case of oil or any fossil fuel, it’s hundreds of thousands of years. The rate at which modern human civilization is using up these resources is faster than the rate at which they can naturally regenerated.
Mankind should care for and protect the Earth not only because it is our home but above all, if we destroy it civilization has nowhere else to go. The society in which we live in has become hurried and stressed. People go about their lives everyday thinking more of work, school, weekend plans, and household chores than they do about their carbon footprint. Nonetheless, society has taken many steps in the right direction, globally and locally, to reduce human impact on the environment.
In particular researchers are working to understand the effects of pollutants on marine and freshwater organisms, develop tests to determine safe levels of trace pollutants, use satellite information and other remote sensing techniques to map, measure and model what happens in the ocean and estuarine environments and assess and restore marine and coastal habitats called (MPAs) Marine Protected Areas (Lockwood, Davidson, Hockings, Haward). Every year we come out with more eco-friendly cars and are working on developing cars that run on alternatives to fossil fuels.
The Maryland Department of the Environment has been at work on the Chesapeake Bay Restoration Act since 2004. The Maryland General Assembly passed the Greenhouse Gas Reduction Act of 2009 this requires the State to achieve a 25 percent reduction in Statewide greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from 2006 levels by 2020 and we have received funding for water quality improvements in 2011 (Chesapeake). These steps are encouraging but they are not enough. Society must realize that the damage we do to the planet is our responsibility to correct.
Governments should shoulder the continued responsibility of passing legislation that protects and renews our planet and civilians must multiply these efforts by doing their part at home. There are simple things anyone can do to help preserve our resources such as buying locally and organically grown food, using less water and electricity, recycling, avoiding use of plastics and CFC aerosol, buying energy efficient appliances, hanging out the wash to dry, or planting a tree. This is our only planet let’s ensure it can be enjoyed for generations to come.