Extinction Is Forever
You may have heard the term gene pool. The gene pool includes all the genetic diversity in the world. There are two types. One, called interspecific diversity, refers to the great variety of species — right from single-celled organisms like plankton to complex ones like polar bears. The other type is intraspecific diversity and means the genetic differences within a species. For instance, even though moose are very much alike, they are not identical. These differences mean some moose are better than others at adapting to changes in their environment.
There are many reasons why we need to conserve the genetic diversity on our planet. Every species has a role in nature, even if we don't know what it is right now. Some species help our economy; some help us medically or in other ways. We can't predict which ones may become useful to us or to future generations. So we are morally obligated to conserve the world's genetic diversity for the sake of our descendants.
Did you know that scientists have investigated only one in every 100 plant species in the world and a much smaller number of our wildlife species? And yet species are disappearing faster and faster.
Scientists estimate that the average time a species survives before it becomes naturally extinct is about five million years. In the last 200 million years, we've lost about one species every 1.9 years. These days, the disappearance rate caused by humans is hundreds and perhaps even thousands of times higher. We don't know for sure, because most vanishing species are ones that we know least about, such as insects in tropical forests.
What we do know is that too many are disappearing too fast because of people's activities. We can't let that happen for wildlife's or for our own sake. Extinct wildlife species can't be replaced. They are gone — forever.
Going, Going, Gone?
Probably somewhere in your area there is at least one species of mammal, bird, amphibian, reptile or plant that is in danger of disappearing. Usually this happens because we are using up wildlife habitat for things like our homes, factories or farmland.
Many people don't realize there are rare, threatened, vulnerable or endangered species in their areas. Others would like to help but don't know how. You can make it a project to educate your community about local species in trouble and offer advice on how to help stop them from dying out.
Learn about the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada (COSEWIC). This group identifies species that are rare, threatened, vulnerable and endangered, and provides information on each one. This helps governments and other organizations plan action programmes to save our disappearing wildlife.
The COSEWIC list has grown much faster than the number of programmes started to help wildlife. Today there are over 500 animals and plants that are rare, vulnerable, threatened or endangered on COSEWIC's list.
You can read more about endangered species in Canada here.
What You Can Do
Educate your community about rare, threatened, vulnerable and endangered wildlife in your area. Information is available from your district wildlife government agency.
With that information, prepare a brief description of the species. Explain where it is found, how much its population has dropped and why, and how we can help it recover.
Make and distribute photocopies for students and teachers. Put copies up on public bulletin boards in your area. Ask your principal if you can make a short presentation on the subject at an assembly.
Community events are a great way to spread the word about species in trouble. Set up a small booth with pictures and facts. Provide handouts to passersby. You could even coordinate a public education plan with other schools in your district or in other parts of Canada.
The more people that know about wildlife in trouble, the better. Your help in spreading the word could make a big difference for wildlife.
Garbage Heap Blues
Let's stop making mountains of garbage. Use this handy list to alert family and friends about how we can recycle together.
Reuse plastic bags. Take your own bags or basket for shopping.
- Use paper products instead of plastic. For example, buy eggs in recycled cardboard — not plastic foam — containers.
- Encourage parents to use cloth rather than disposable diapers. Each child wears 2,000 diapers up to age 2½ years! These help fill up landfill sites quickly and may contain dioxin that can harm people.
- Avoid products with too much wrapping. Bulk food (rice, popcorn, and so on) can be stored in containers you reuse.
- Write the chain president of your supermarket to say you won't buy overpackaged products. If enough people do that, the manufacturers will get the message.
- Use cloth instead of paper napkins.
- Buy soft drinks or milk in returnable, refutable containers.
- Use things like wrapping paper and string more than once. Use the backs of printed paper as scratch pads. Donate old clothes to charities.
- Recycle old magazines and books to hospitals, schools and bazaars.
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