As the human population increases, so does our energy demand. It is hard to imagine life in a dark world. That is why resource extraction is the number one ecological threat that is endangering animals and plant species, for our energy needs.
In light of Wildlife Conservation Day celebrated every 4th of December, it is high time to weigh how much resource extraction affects life here on Earth, focusing on its impacts on wildlife conservation.
- What is Resource Extraction?
- Effects of Resource Extraction on Animals
- Alternatives to Resource Extraction
What is Resource Extraction?
Understanding resource extraction is simple. It is the extraction of resources or getting raw materials from the environment to support human needs; including food, fuel, minerals, and fibers.
Some examples of resource extraction are mining, logging, fishing, hunting, deforestation, and oil drilling. All of which are for obtaining fossil fuels, rocks, minerals, biomass, and lands for agriculture and urban developments—the essentials of modern living.
Although seemingly crucial for human lives, resource extraction has become exploitative, increasing stress levels on our climate and natural life-support systems. We have expanded our scope of natural resources withdrawal, touching not only the Earth’s surface but also exploring the deep sea, the most secluded islands, and pristine lands and forests for raw materials.
Effects of Resource Extraction on Animals
The most recent Global Resources Outlook reports industries are extracting resources three times faster than in 1970, even though our population has only doubled in the same period. Hence, its effects, too, have been drastically progressing.
Clearing of land for agriculture and cropland irrigation accounts for biodiversity loss and water stress. Meanwhile, mineral and fossil fuel extractions and processing are the top culprits for the worsening air pollution and rising carbon emissions.
But that is just the sliver of the full scope.
Extracting natural resources offers the most notable damage to the natural habitats of the areas involved. It negatively impacts the population of species, biodiversity, and the interactions between organisms, displacing and leaving the entire habitat unable to support natural life.
Resource extraction alone is not the only culprit to dying ecosystems. Habitat loss can also be due to climate change and geological processes. However, the primary cause is undeniably linked to human activities, especially large-scale commercial agriculture, responsible for 80% of biodiversity loss.
The Food And Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United States reports that an estimated “420 million hectares of forest have been lost through conversion to other land uses” despite the decline in the rate of deforestation since 1990. But, in just five years, between 2015 and 2020, the world is still losing 10 million hectares of forest each year.
At this rate, the world’s remaining forests are struggling to keep their primary function. Not only are they home to numerous species, but they also play a crucial role in providing freshwater, clean air, mitigating climate change, and even providing livelihood.
Gathering resources from natural reserves does not only damage it on the surface, but it also damages and puts a long-term curse on whatever it touches. The invasive procedures of the extractive industries expose the environment to pollutants, reducing the quality of air, water, and soil.
Mining and deforestation destabilize soils, making them more prone to erosion and to losing life-sustaining nutrients. The Global Environment Facility notes that “24 billion tons of fertile soil was being lost per year.”
This number means that by 2050, the world could lose 95% of its healthy land and contribute to the increasing levels of carbon in the atmosphere. This almost contradicts one of the soil’s functions, which is to absorb carbon from dead matter and supporting plants, which sequesters carbon dioxide from the atmosphere.
The cycle continues as soil erosion, and dead land could decrease water quality due to sediment and pollutant increase in rivers and streams. As a result, there will be less fresh water available for humans and other ecosystems.
Meanwhile, the processing of fossil fuels, metals, and minerals leaves poisonous chemicals in the air. In return, resource extraction is also responsible for most of the health adversities that air pollution inflicts.
As the pollution on terrestrial territories promulgates, the Earth’s land can soon no longer supply the food production demand of humans. In turn, we may have to find alternatives like farming in the ocean.
Threat to Wildlife Conservation
More innovations are coming up, and so are our means to gather more natural resources. And as the human population and demands grow, there is less room left for wildlife on the planet.
Hence, the direct impacts of habitat loss due to resource extraction put more stress on already vulnerable ecosystems. Thus, the added threat to already endangered species.
Agriculture and land clearing destroy the homes of these species while leaving fertile soil unsafe for sustaining new and remaining life. For example, the Natural Wildlife Federation states that “much of the remaining terrestrial wildlife habitat in the U.S. has been cut up into fragments by roads and development,” and “aquatic species’ habitats have been fragmented by dams and water diversions.”
Simply put, resource extraction imposes holistic damage to the environment, ridding ecosystems of food, water, and shelter. It is not so far-reaching to say that climate change should not be blamed for the continuous rise of endangered species, but instead, the world should place blame where it is due—human activities.
Alternatives to Resource Extraction
The 26th United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP26) calls for desperate measures to turn around the world’s carbon impact, a make-or-break moment of sorts, as greenhouse gasses rise to alarming levels more than what scientists expected and enough to instill the extreme shifts in climate.
One of the International Resource Panel(IRP) insights on COP26 mentions that “1 million plant and animal species are threatened with extinction, many within the next few decades,” and that “the value per capita of the world’s natural capital stocks has declined by 40% since 1992.” That, alongside the accelerating climate changes, is due to inefficient, poorly governed natural resource use.
But more importantly, IPBES Chair Sir Robert Watson said in the media release, “The health of ecosystems on which we and all other species depend is deteriorating more rapidly than ever. We are eroding the very foundations of our economies, livelihoods, food security, health, and quality of life worldwide.”
The solution would be to slash existing policies based on the past and rethink them to fit the future. There should be an immediate transition in the industry, with governments and private sectors focusing on renewables, more thoughtful urban planning for less concrete consumption, diet changes for curbing grazing needs and food wastes, and more attention to economies re-using more materials.
By doing so, the “growth in global resource use can slow by 25 per cent, global gross domestic product could grow 8 per cent [...] and greenhouse gas emissions could be cut by 90 per cent compared with projections for continuing along historical trends” by 2060 as the Global Resource Outlook 2019 assessed.
If not, we would be losing plenty of our ecosystems, wildlife, and varieties of plants—the essentials of Earth’s web of life.
Now is the time to rethink your ways and your demands for living by conserving energy, reducing the things you use down to the essentials, and finding sustainable or green alternatives for your wants.
Those who are into surfing can opt for eco-friendly surfing gear from Wave Tribe. We use sustainable resources, like hemp and recycled materials, to keep up with the stoke.
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