Humanity hit an alarming milestone on Nov. 15, 2022 when the world population reached 8 billion people.
Our rapid growth is unparalleled. The human population has doubled in the past 50 years and increased by 1 billion in just 11 years. Meanwhile wildlife populations have fallen by more than two-thirds. For example, since 1970, there are nearly 3 billion fewer birds in the United States and Canada, including common species like warblers and finches.
Adding more than 200,000 people to the planet every day comes at a steep cost: a worsening climate crisis, polluted air and water, ecosystems torn apart to make way for human development, oceans riddled with plastic, pesticides drenching the land, and plants and animals being pushed to the brink of extinction.
If we stay on this course, 1 million plant and animal species are on their way to extinction in the coming decades. But there’s still time for humankind to improve our relationship with nature and save these imperiled species.
Here’s a look at 10 U.S. species threatened by our increasingly crowded planet:
Photo credit: USFWS
Photo credit: Richard Biggins / USFWS
Photo credit: James Gruhala / USFWS
Photo credit: USFWS
Photo credit: USGS
Photo credit: Kevin Cole
Our world is filled with incredible biodiversity that enriches our lives and keeps our planet healthy. There’s still hope for saving life on Earth and creating a brighter future where people and the natural world thrive in harmony.
To make that future real, we need to acknowledge the role that population pressure plays in driving the extinction crisis and focus on solutions that can create a just, sustainable world for everyone. Here’s how.
Gender empowerment and education are widely seen as solutions that benefit women and girls while also improving conservation efforts in low-wealth countries. But improving gender equity in the United States — one of the world’s highest consuming countries — could have a substantial environmental impact, too. When women are engaged in decision-making and leadership, there’s stronger representation for solutions that benefit the entire community and a greater investment in conservation efforts. And when people have children only if and when they want, it leaves more room for wildlife.
Yet people in the United States face barriers to choosing if and when to have children. Policymakers can remove these barriers by supporting universal access to voluntary family planning; inclusive and medically accurate comprehensive sexual education; and affordable sexual and reproductive healthcare, including abortion.
If we’re going to stem the tide of wildlife extinctions, we need to take bold and courageous action, including the declaration of a national emergency that will unlock additional funding and create incentives for federal agencies to prioritize the protection of wildlife and wild places. Government policies must prioritize protecting 30% of lands and waters by 2030 and 50% by 2050, which will help prevent population growth pushing development even farther into critical habitat areas.
The welfare of human beings is linked to the existence of a diversity of wild animals and plants. The Endangered Species Act is a tool that allows us to support those species, great and small, hovering on the brink of extinction by protecting the lands, waters and climate that they need to survive.
The Act has been extraordinarily successful at saving species from extinction caused by human environmental degradation — including sprawl and other population-related issues — but in many cases the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has failed to protect species for decades. Decisions affecting the survival of species must be made swiftly, effectively, and without political interference. Congress must do its part by fully funding this lifesaving law.
The systematic exploitation of people, animals and nature drives the environmental crises we face, including the wildlife extinction crisis. It also damages the reproductive health of the most marginalized people and communities. Financial gain and GDP growth have been prioritized over reproductive health, safe communities, access to healthcare resources, bodily autonomy, and even a livable environment for both people and wildlife. Instead of sacrificing the future to profit margins, we must hold polluting corporations accountable for this damage.
Threatened plants and animals can’t speak for themselves, but you can use your voice to speak for them. Send a letter to the editor describing your support for endangered species protections in a world of 8 billion people. Vote for representatives at the local, state and national levels who will put human rights and nature ahead of corporate profits. Visit our Action Alert page for more actions you can take today, and keep up to date on the latest population and extinction crisis news by joining the Center’s email list.
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