California River Watch 2013 Annual Statement
In 2013 River Watch began an aggressive campaign to protect local endangered threatened species including the salmonids, Coho, Chinook and Steelhead, as well as the Sonoma California Tiger Salamander. In Sonoma and Mendocino Counties, the construction and wine industries are largely responsible for the significant loss of ecological diversity we’ve seen in our community and the near extinction of the species River Watch is seeking to protect. These powerful industries often believe it’s acceptable to replace wetlands, vernal pools and forests with impervious surfaces and monoculture for private monetary benefit. We are asking them to take stock of their relationship to the land, water, and species they effect, and we’re holding them accountable if they do not.
The loss of species and diversity we are experiencing is part of a worldwide event called a mass extinction. An extinction event is a widespread and rapid decrease in the diversity and abundance of life. A mass extinction, where more than 50% of all species perish, is a rare phenomenon. In the past 450 million years scientists have only identified five mass extinctions.1 The last is believed to have been caused by a catastrophic meteor impact, which led to the loss of 75% or more of all species on Earth including most dinosaurs. Within the next 50-100 years we will be very likely passing the threshold of a new mass extinction, sadly brought on by human greed and neglect. Humans are the new global catastrophe.
Since the emergence of Homo sapiens most large mammals are now extinct. The majority remaining are endangered or threatened. We continue to push other species to the threshold of extinction through habitat modification and destruction. We’ve all heard the stories about the destruction of the world’s major rainforests (the lungs of our planet), the caves of bats stricken with white-nose syndrome in New York and the acidification of coral islands in Australia’s Great Barrier Reef. These modern eco-disasters are depressingly familiar and have but one cause: human activity. We are failing, as a species, to integrate ourselves into the ecosystem in which we eat, breathe and have to thank for our survival.
The fact is this current mass extinction cannot be avoided, the momentum is far too great. In the past mass extinctions, the causative agent was transient, allowing the Earth to recover. It is highly likely humanity will survive. The question is whether we learn to be in harmony with our environment and our own true nature, or will we become like Star Trek’s Borg and turn the Earth into a wasteland, killing our soul and harming our health at the same time. We are a singularly powerful species – uniquely creative as well as destructive. So we must learn, as a species, how to exist in the world without destroying the world. Despite humanity’s ability for destruction, we do not have to continue on that track. We can become the Earth’s immune response, realizing that Earth’s life systems are the same as ours, and defend the elements and biodiversity on the only home we have.
It all starts at home, it all starts with each one of us considering the planet in our decisions, and doing what we can to protect it. River Watch will do our part. Please do yours.
1 In the past 450 million years there have been approximately 20 extinctions events. Of those 20, 5 have been mass extinctions.
And that is just the point… how the world, moist and beautiful, calls to each of us to make a new and serious response. That’s the big question, the one the world throws at you every morning. “Here you are, alive. Would you like to make a comment?” ~ Mary Oliver