Monday, January 23, 2017

Overpopulation of Humans Affects Animals

Human overpopulation is an uncomfortable subject for people to talk about it, but if we claim to love other species of animals it is something we need to be aware of.  As the human population continues to explode other species are at risk and many have already been driven to extinction.  In fact, scientists are calling our current time "The Holocene Extinction Event", as species of animals are going extinct at rates faster than normal, and due to human activity.

Why Are Animals Going Extinct?

Habitat loss.  We take land for our homes, we take land for agriculture, we take land for recreation.  More people = more land taken.  A lot of people deny human over population because they say there is still more land for more homes, but what they fail to consider is that the land they speak about is already "home" to another species.

Pollution.  Pollution kills animals in many ways, one of the biggest concerns is how pollution is affecting the reefs of the world, and yes, coral is an animal!  When coral reefs die so do many of the other species that call them home.  Then other species that depend on those animals for life starve to death.  More people = more pollution.  Pollution in lakes and ponds kills off other animals too and some animals have such small habitats that if you poison the only lake/pond that they are found in they will be extinct.  Amphibians are very sensitive to pollution as well.  Migrating birds are affected by light pollution.
This whale likely died as a result of being tangled in fishing lines

Food.  We eat animals.  In some areas of the world meat is hard to come by, beef is expensive, so people eat whatever they can even if the animal is listed as endangered.   Overfishing has put many fish species at risk of extinction.

Other Reasons.  Trophy hunting of rare and endangered animals, including poaching for horns, has put many species at risk, however this is not necessarily related to human overpopulation in as much as it is related to the selfishness of some particular humans.  Capturing animals for the exotic pet trade also endangers them in the wild, but again is not directly related to overpopulation.

Let's Talk About Agriculture!

This farm land was once all forest, and the thin line of trees in the distance is not enough to sustain wildlife, it serves only as a windbreak to prevent topsoil from blowing away when the farmer plows the fields on the other side of the treeline.
 The biggest threat to other species is agriculture.  For thousands of years the human population was under 1 billion people, but in the last 100 years the population has risen to over 7.5 billion, and all of us need to eat.  As our population grew we relied more and more on agriculture.  Agriculture relies on deforestation in most cases.  Deforestation means less habitat for animals, and sometimes animals are killed if they come on to areas claimed for agriculture.  Meat production, specifically cattle, is a huge burden on the planet.

If you look at pictures of pasture land in England and Ireland they sure do look lovely; rolling green hills and all, but consider that much of that land was once a forest and that many species which lived there are now extinct.  The same thing happened in North America.  Forests were removed to make room for farm land.  Today the leading cause of loss of the Amazon rain forest is agriculture, with thousands of acres lost to be converted into land for cattle or food production for cattle.  Animals that needed forests, such as the passenger pigeon, are now gone forever.

In other parts of the world, Borneo for example, rain forests are cleared so we can produce palm oil.  The animals of those rain forests (such as orangutans) are at risk, and others have already gone extinct.

Agriculture is one reason why people are in denial about human overpopulation.  They see a lot of space being used as farm land and think it equates to having more space for more people... but of course if we put more people on that land then we need other land to make up for the loss and even more land to feed those additional people and thus we destroy even more habitat.

We Control The Population Of Other Species, But Not Our Own

Human  population growth chart.
 Largely we control the growth of other species.  We kill off thousands of seals and dolphins every year because we are concerned about them eating "our" fish stocks.  We kill off wolves, coyotes, cougars, and bears, that eat our livestock.  We even spay or neuter our pets to prevent them from becoming a problem with pet overpopulation. 

Think About It 

Nobody wants to consider slaughtering humans to keep our numbers low, and that is not what I am saying, but something must be done.  The birth rate is falling, but the main reason our population is exploding is because we are living longer than ever before.  Eventually we will reach a point where our population has destroyed so many other species that our own survival is at risk.

What can we do?  We can put off having children until we are in our late 20's and limit ourselves to one child only.  We can reduce the amount of meat we eat in general.  We can make birth control available to those who want it and cannot afford it.  We can stop making women feel bad for deciding not to have children!

If we claim to care about animals we need to be better at sharing the planet with them and stop taking from them.  This earth is for all of us, not just "us".