For two hundred unique forms of living beings, today is the last day of life on earth.
Extinct. Forever. And so it has been, two hundred species, every day, for as long as I have lived, and so it will continue to be for as long as I live.
When Europeans first arrived in North America, they saw flocks of passenger pigeons fly overhead, so large that the sky would darken for hours, even days, on end. There were estimated to be five billion birds. The last passenger pigeon died in 1900.
Living beings are connected and interdependent in ways that we may never understand. Flocks of passenger pigeons dropped manure on the forest floor in layers of several inches thick below their roosts. The extinction of these birds would have led to a decline in the health of the forest, making trees and other species more susceptible to pests and diseases, and no doubt causing the extinction of many other species – plants, animals, insects, birds and microbes.
In North America today, it is rare to see or hear a bird. The forests are eerily silent. Occasionally I hear the tapping of a woodpecker, or see a turkey buzzard circling high above. I suspect it won’t be more than a couple of years before these, too, are gone.
There are now very few salmon in the streams, hardly any frogs, and the bee population is declining rapidly. No bees means no berries, no berries means no bears, and the whole ecosystem collapses, as all the strands in the web of life that hold it together fall away.
Humans are part of this web too, although many of them refuse to believe it. They think of themselves as better than the animals, independent of everything that goes on around them. Many consider the loss of their life support system as a good thing. They see other living things as competitors, and value their destructive economy as more important than the foundation of earth and life that it is built on. They cannot see that the growth of their economy and population is only possible by destroying and consuming its own foundations, which will inevitably lead to a sudden collapse.
Humans are only slowly beginning to discover their own vulnerability, and becoming aware of their place in the web. The approaching extinction of the honeybee brings their attention to a strand of the web that they can comprehend. Honeybees are necessary for the pollination of almost all human food. No bees, no pollination. No pollination, no food plants. No food, no humans. The enormous and rapidly growing population may hide the fact, but humans are now an endangered species.
There is no way to bring back the millions of species that we have lost, but by becoming aware of our connections in the interdependencies, we may be able to prevent further breakages of the web, and life may continue for a little while longer. It seems unlikely though, given the current belief systems of most humans. It’s probably already too late. The last day of life on earth for humans may come sooner than we think.