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Friday, March 11, 2016

THE SIXTH EXTINCTION


Each year all over the globe, species are added to the endangered list. Many die off altogether. The cause of this Sixth Extinction? Humans. There is a catchy acronym for the factors that are destroying our planet: HIPPO. HIPPO stands for habitat destruction, invasive species, pollution, population growth and overhunting. 

Via HIPPO we are also killing ourselves. Pulitzer Prize winner Edward O. Wilson suggests we take a drastic measure to avert planetary disaster, which he outlines in his new book, Half-Earth. He advises that we devote half of the world's surface to nature reserves.  Such an outlandish conservation effort does not seem likely to come to your neighborhood any time soon. People may seem reluctant to sell or trade their already small parcels of land merely for the sake of the environment. Like, what's in it for me? In the swelling population, land is scarce and plots are already at a premium. I have a better idea. 

Ask yourself what one human-led practice causes all of the five factors associated with HIPPO. The answer: eating animals. Think of it. We destroy forests to create pastures to fatten animals who will then be slaughtered, in so doing destroying natural habitats, thinning the ozone and extinguishing species. 

And much of what we feed animals, corn and soy especially, can be considered invasive species, since we introduce these crops into lands where they do not normally occur. 

Pollution? The aforementioned deforestation emits greenhouse gases and drastically diminishes the ozone-preserving effect of green vegetation, which gets cut down, as they say,"in one fell swoop." Not to mention the methane that these flatulent ruminants raised en masse emit into the atmosphere with their farts. And the industrial facilities that process these animals further pollute the air. 

Population growth? By producing more calories in the form of animal protein yes we are feeding an ever-growing population, but these calories are deficient in many vitamins and intense carbon wasters. In other words of the massive amount of energy (calories) it takes to produce animal protein, only a small fraction is available for consumption as fuel. The bulk is wasted. 

And isn't factory farming, or large scale raising of animals for slaughter a form of hunting? Yes, without any thrill or skill involved. The hunter talks of the adrenaline rush and the heat of the hunt. The slaughterhouse worker who bludgeons and slices countless animals an hour, each in one fell swoop, is merely depressed. 

Hunting hippos would be a better alternative to the large scale extermination of cows. Because there are fewer of them and their meat probably isn't as tasty. But lest by such a practice we extinguish that massive beast, sending it the way of the wooly mammoth, I vote we cease the practice of consuming animals for food altogether. That way we can save hippos and extinguish HIPPO and protect our planet in one fell swoop.

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