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Letter: Why you should care and what you can do about extinction of species
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The Highlands to Islands Trail in Gainesville is pictured Monday, July 2, 2018. - photo by David Barnes

This month we received a detailed and depressing report. Compiled by an international group of scientists and based on thousands of scientific studies, it tell us that as many as a million plant and animal species are now threatened with extinction.

This is happening faster than at any time in human history, with many disappearing within decades.

Some people will not believe this because it conflicts with the political opinions. Others won’t because they can’t see it happening around them. Some will see but don't care because they think it will not happen in their lifetime.

Why does this matter anyway? Why should we care?

It matters because of two very important reasons. The first is that it is morally wrong to drive any living species to extinction. That should be enough. But a second reason is that species extinction will have huge negative effects on human well-being. As the report explains, the natural world provides billions and billions of dollars of services to us. These services include wetlands that clean and purify water, forests that clean both the air and water and provide homes for wildlife of all kinds, and bees and other insects that pollinate fruits and vegetables that we must have as food to live.

So what is causing these threats to extinction? The causes are several, but the main one is the clearing of forests and wetlands. This is the really big problem. And big problems call for big solutions. There are big solutions, if the governments of the world will step up, and if we have the will to act on the solutions that are there. But, as individuals, it seems that the more information we have about a problem over which we have no control, the more helpless we feel. So we do nothing.

We need not feel helpless, though. It’s true that as individuals we can’t solve a global problem. But we can, right here at home, do things that can help make this bad situation better. Although not focused on species extinction, the Greenspace Initiative of Vision 2030 will help lessen it. Affiliated with the Greater Hall Chamber of Commerce, the Greenspace Initiative began several years ago and is working to assure quality of life in our community through permanent protection of greenspace. This land is to be chosen for protection based on its ecological, environmental, recreational, aesthetic, cultural, historic or agricultural value. Permanently protected greenspace will hep assure that we have the forests, wetlands and other greenspace that will help slow the extinction of plants, animals and insects whose lives deserve protection and whose lives are so important to us.

So, there is something we can do here, right at home. But important questions remain.

Do we care? And if we do, are we willing to do something?

John Girardeau

Gainesville

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