The end of biodiversity as we know it

The land and the oceans will continue to teem with life, but it will be a peculiarly homogenized assemblage of organisms unnaturally selected for their compatibility with one fundamental force: us. Nothing […] can change the current course. The broad path for biological evolution is now set for the next several million years. And in this sense, the extinction crisis – the race to save the composition, structure and organization of biodiversity as it exists today – is over, and we have lost.

So ends Chapter 1 of Stephen Meyer’s essay, The End of the Wild, a somber piece about the irreversible changes in the world’s ecosystems, that are currently taking place. Meyer’s thesis is that the guiding hand of biological selection is “unmistakably human”. This spells doom for exotic wild species such as elephants, lions, tigers, a great number of birds and fishes. He says that any and all conservation efforts that we can come up with, are futile and cannot prevent the end result – the extinction of most wild species except for a few (labelled “relics”) which may survive because of our last ditch strategies, and the proliferation of “weed” species which benefit from proximity to humans (e.g., racoons, mosquitoes, coyotes).

In spite of his grim prognostications, Meyer advocates against abandoning our conservation activities, if only in the hope that they will help us preserve what is left and will prevent catastrophic changes in the earth’s biota. It was alarming to read that fishing has already stripped the North Atlantic of more than 80% of its fish, in the last 100 years. At this rate, the world that we shall leave to our grandchildren is going to be more different from ours than we have ever imagined. A sobering read.

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