Since the exponential progress of humanity, much of the rest in the animal and plant kingdoms have experienced a devastating loss. But what about humanity’s progress is detrimental to other species? Lots of factors, like industrialization, agriculture, or even changing diet, can be attributed as factors to this phenomenon. A new study conducted at the University of California, Davis reached a startling conclusion about what specific factor, exactly, affects the loss of biodiversity and endangered species: Increased human life expectancy.
To study the impact of humanity on the environment, the researchers looked at two markers of deteriorating environment: the rise of invasive species and the loss of endangered species. Then they pulled data from over 100 countries (roughly 87% of the world by population, and 74% by land area) on factors like: agricultural intensity, rainfall, pesticide regulation, energy efficiency, wilderness protection, latitude, export-import ratio, undernourishment, adult literacy, female participation in government, and total population.
Of all these factors considered, human life expectancy turned out to be the key predictor of loss of endangered species and rise of invasive species, over more intuitive factors like pesticide regulation and wilderness protection. In some ways, this is a sign that we can’t protect endangered animals or think about controlling invasive species without thinking about ourselves as part of the environment. In much of the world, humans may as well be considered “invasive species”–since we have the exact same effect of suppressing other species and thriving well in any type of environment.
“Some studies have this view that there’s wildlife and then there’s us,” said Aaron Lotz, the lead author of the study. “But we’re part of the ecosystem. We need to start relating humans to the environment in our resarch and not leave them out of the equation.”
This is not all to declaim medical progress or longevity–but for us to think about the relationship each of us has with the rest of nature. We are a part of nature; and living simply, peacefully, mindfully will ensure that we don’t thrive at the cost of rest of the living world.
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Photo: Flickkerphotos via Flickr