May 23, 2007
Sixth Of European Mammal Species Face Extinction

I wish species extinctions got one tenth the attention that global warming gets. Many European mammalian species are at risk of extinction.

One-sixth of Europe's mammal species are threatened with extinction, according to a comprehensive survey by the World Conservation Union (IUCN). Unless the trend is reversed, conservationists fear that the European Union will not be able to meet its self-imposed target of halting biodiversity loss by 2010.

Of the roughly 250 mammal species that live in Europe and western Russia, some 15% are classed as 'vulnerable' or worse, according to the IUCN's criteria. This means that they face a "high risk of extinction in the wild" if action is not taken.

The Europeans could reduce the pressure on species by stopping immigration. Fewer people means more room for animals.

The world as a whole has even bigger problems.

OSLO -- Human activities are wiping out three animal or plant species every hour and the world must do more to slow the worst spate of extinctions since the dinosaurs by 2010, the United Nations said Tuesday.

Scientists and environmentalists issued reports about threats to creatures and plants including right whales, Iberian lynxes, wild potatoes and peanuts on May 22, the International Day for Biological Diversity.

The UN calculates its estimates based on the loss of habitats rather than based on specific species previously known that can't be found. But lots of species haven't been cataloged and for some species no one is going out to check.

Some people think the world's population growth is no longer a problem due to a projected peaking at 9 billion. But the next 3 billion humans are going to wipe out a lot of habitats before the problem stops getting worse. Also, biotechnological advances will increase human life expectancy and human fertility. Natural selection for higher fertility (especially for a stronger desire to have kids) will also exert effects that could make the current growth projection excessively optimistic.

The embrace of biomass energy by political elites is also going to contribute to species extinction since land used to grow biomass energy crops is land that ceases to support assorted plant and animal species.

Share |      Randall Parker, 2007 May 23 10:52 PM  Trends Extinction

morpheus said at May 24, 2007 6:59 AM:

great news

lets hope they go extinct fast so we can stop this gay talk about

saving animals and mother earth:)

Jake said at May 24, 2007 9:42 AM:

OMG that will leave us with only 995,999,587 unique species left on the planet.

Nick said at May 24, 2007 1:57 PM:

Randall, I agree completely.

I like to analyze pessimistic predictions in order to identify places where we're "borrowing trouble" (i.e., worrying excessively). That includes the idea that public policy changes are desirable to reduce population growth in OECD countries, given the reality of below-replacement fertility rates.

But....this level of extinctions is a reality, and it seems unconscionable to me.

rsilvetz said at May 25, 2007 7:48 AM:

Uh no people. It is most definitely not a reality.

There's this funny idea going around that what the UN says or any of these alphabet soups of NGO's out there say, is somehow based on science.
It's not. It's based on politics. The motivating force here is what they intend to spring on us in the future. The UN, for example, lost all credibility on global warming when it threw out the whole Medieval Period to make its case work, took a model that even under random data produces global warming 100% of the time, and when the first memo's showing they wanted to be the mechanism for a global carbon tax. This is mroe of the same so that the can regulate my backyard thru the Biosphere Treaty.

Food for thought:

In the first place there is no census of species. There's not even a good estimate. So we don't know the denominator.

In the second place noone has observed even a fraction of the species of going out of existence so as to have a sampling distribution that may be somehow massaged into a proper estimate given some parameters.

In the third place, every time we hear about some dead species, it is eventually found to be living very happily somewhere else we didn't look.

This report is pure unadulterated guesswork that should be called the boulderdash that it is.


Alex said at May 25, 2007 10:17 AM:

There was an interesting article in The Economist a few weeks ago about how political a process classifying animals can be. Politicos definately have an interest on having as many species as possible (when fewer may do) so they can have greater numbers of endangered species to protec.

Randall Parker said at May 27, 2007 11:05 AM:

Montana Jake,

The study was specific to mammalian species and in Europe.

As for the rest of the planet: Lots of primates and big cats are dropping in numbers. Humans are edging out all the land-based predators that sit at the top of food chains. Humans are also causing the collapse of many fishing stocks.

I saw Jane Goodall interviewed and she remarked how back in the 1990s she was flying across Africa and she was shocked at just how thoroughl Tanzania was getting denuded outside of some small park areas. This is only going to get worse.

We have too many people.

Nick said at May 27, 2007 2:52 PM:

"We have too many people."

Yeah, but focusing on that doesn't help - nothing will reduce our numbers soon enough to help besides something like nuclear winter (or ice9, or nanogoo...). More importantly, 6 or 9B people could easily live on this planet without this kind of harm with the right changes.

I used to think disneyworld was a bit synthetic. Now I applaud the idea of vacations that don't tromp all over wild spaces.

Randall Parker said at May 27, 2007 3:39 PM:


Problems are a lot easier to solve or ameliorate if we first identify underlying causes. The world overpopulation problem got a lot of attention back in the 1970s. But the environmentalists abandoned the issue. Why? Maybe they decided they couldn't talk about it without thinking themselves racists. I do not know for sure.

I write my web logs to talk about underreported and underappreciated problems and opportunities. Overpopulation fits with my larger goal. So I'm going to talk about it more often.

As for focusing on what can help more immediately: The long term eventually comes as well and the long term is the result of all the short terms in between. We need to talk about what we should try to do in the short term and the long term.

Nick said at May 28, 2007 8:35 AM:

Well, I can't disagree with that general philosophy. And, I would agree that it would have been a really good idea to intervene 50-100 years to prevent our current overpopulation problem.

OTOH, it seems to me that population growth currently isn't a problem in the OECD, where fertility levels are at or below replacement. I agree that it's a problem in Africa and parts of India, and a few other places like Saudi Arabia.

A broad statement about overpopulation being doesn't seem helpful. In fact, I think the underlying problems are other things: poverty, education, women's empowerment. In general, women would prefer to have substantially fewer children than they are having....

Do you feel like we should reduce fertility levels further in OECD countries, and just deal with the demographic problems that would create, like weird ratios between generations?

Randall Parker said at May 28, 2007 8:46 AM:


The United States population could reach 400 to 500 million by mid century. How high it will go depends on immigration.

We are losing habitat areas in California. The same is happening in many other regions. Also, a rising fraction of the populace devotes 30% or more of income to housing costs as areas which formerly had lots of undeveloped land start filling up.

On top of this the drive get more energy from biomass is shifting land into agriculture.

Plus, as I've previously posted, rising incomes allow people to use more land. Higher income people build second homes and bigger homes. The human footprint is expanding in the West as well.

Nick said at May 28, 2007 3:00 PM:

hmmm. I agree, I don't like the sound of this. A few thoughts.

I suspect most of this growth is mexican immigration (rather than US birth rates). I think the best solution would be for the US to make a really serious effort to reform mexican government, which is astonishingly corrupt, and mexican education, which must be abysmal. I'm astonished that the US has allowed such problems to fester on it's border.

This leads to my 2nd thought about immigration, which is that the US business community loves it. We're going to have to re-assert democratic control over our government in order to pry the hands of business off the levers of power, and do something about this. As long as our politicians are bought with campaign contributions, I have little hope.

I wonder if anybody is quantifying these things: US habitat loss, urban sprawl, etc. - our intuition on land use could be wrong, as the concentration of people in urban areas may also rising. Certainly a lot of immigration goes to cities.

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