Friday, 9 July 2004

Mass extinctions

Back in the 1970s and 1980s there were widespread predictions of mass extinctions, and the disappearance of hundreds of thousands of species by the end of the 20th Century. But looking back it is very difficult to see if those predictions were wholly accurate. Certainly forest loss, and the destruction of natural habitats continued unabated, and those gloomy predictions were largely fulfilled. Equally depressing is the fact that the world's population growth, continues out of control, but by the begining of the 21st century was hardly mentioned as an issue. The gap between the poor and rich nations continues to widen, and the consumption of natural resources has spiralled virtually out of control. At the turn of the century, while some countries tried to impose controls and limits on the exploitation of natural resourse, the US continued on its growth path, and there was widespread concern that the Bush administration was very retrograde in terms of its environmental policies. In the UK quick-fix energy policies by the Blair government sought to develop masses of wind farms, despite the fact that not all conservationists are convinced of their enrgy efficiency, and they are known to kill wildlife.

But back to where I started, have the predictions of extinctions been fulfilled? The answer is that nobody really knows, but we can be pretty sure that unles the human population growth is slowed, at least in the developed world, the demand for natural resources, will ensure that wildlife habitat continues to disappear. That's why the WLT's acquisition programmes, though tiny, are still significant. At least we're doing something.

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