E.O. Wilson: My wish: Build the Encyclopedia of Life-4

Some serious biologists, and I count myself among them, have begun to wonder that among the enormous and still unknown diversity of microorganisms, one might — just might — find aliens among them. True aliens, stocks that arrived from outer space. They’ve had billions of years to do it, but especially during the earliest period of biological evolution on this planet. We do know that some bacterial species that have earthly origin are capable of almost unimaginable extremes of temperature and other harsh changes in environment, including hard radiation strong enough and maintained long enough to crack the Pyrex vessels around the growing population of bacteria. There may be a temptation to treat the biosphere holistically and the species that compose it as a great flux of entities hardly worth distinguishing one from the other. But each of these species, even the tiniest Prochlorococci, are masterpieces of evolution. Each has persisted for thousands to millions of years. Each is exquisitely adapted to the environment in which it lives, interlocked with other species to form ecosystems upon which our own lives depend in ways we have not begun even to imagine. We will destroy these ecosystems and the species composing them at the peril of our own existence — and unfortunately we are destroying them with ingenuity and ceaseless energy.

My own epiphany as a conservationist came in 1953, while a Harvard graduate student, searching for rare ants found in the mountain forests of Cuba, ants that shine in the sunlight — metallic green or metallic blue, according to species, and one species, I discovered, metallic gold. I found my magical ants, but only after a tough climb into the mountains where the last of the native Cuban forests hung on, and were then — and still are — being cut back. I realized then that these species and a large part of the other unique, marvelous animals and plants on that island — and this is true of practically every part of the world — which took millions of years to evolve, are in the process of disappearing forever. And so it is everywhere one looks.

The human juggernaut is permanently eroding Earth’s ancient biosphere by a combination of forces that can be summarized by the acronym “HIPPO,” the animal hippo. H is for habitat destruction, including climate change forced by greenhouse gases. I is for the invasive species like the fire ants, the zebra mussels, broom grasses and pathogenic bacteria and viruses that are flooding every country, and at an exponential rate — that’s the I. The P, the first one in “HIPPO,” is for pollution. The second is for continued population, human population expansion. And the final letter is O, for over-harvesting — driving species into extinction by excessive hunting and fishing. The HIPPO juggernaut we have created, if unabated, is destined — according to the best estimates of ongoing biodiversity research — to reduce half of Earth’s still surviving animal and plant species to extinction or critical endangerment by the end of the century. Human-forced climate change alone — again, if unabated — could eliminate a quarter of surviving species during the next five decades. What will we and all future generations lose if much of the living environment is thus degraded? Huge potential sources of scientific information yet to be gathered, much of our environmental stability and new kinds of pharmaceuticals and new products of unimaginable strength and value — all thrown away.

Om Namah Shivay

***Write ” Om Namah Shivay ” if you ask for God’s blessing on your life today. Please Like, Tag and Share to bless others!



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