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Pump the brakes on hysteria

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We live in delicate times. There is no doubt. There is also no doubt that we can become alarmists with exaggerated threats as well.

I have been wandering around on this planet for nearly 50 years now, and in the process, have been privy to many potential disasters that were only a few years away. I was just old enough to remember the great gas lines as fuel skyrocketed due to the soon-to-be fuel shortages, and the worry over whether we would be able to rely on oil that decade. Of course, that was 40-plus years ago now.

We were at a panicked stage over the burning of the great rain forests of northern South America. It was taught and re-taught in schools about how we would soon be living in a world of nothing but carbon dioxide, because all of the trees had basically been cleared to a point of no recovery, and death was soon to follow. That was in the mid 1970s.

We have been through the anxiety of ozone holes planted square above the poles, that were harbingers of doom as the radiation of the sun would break through those holes, ending our world by either frying us beneath or melting the ice caps and flooding the land masses. Again, we had months and years, not decades remaining. Again, that was in the late 1970s and early 1980s.

We have gone through countless global warming and miniature ice age contradictions that seemed to change daily depending on the scientific report that was requested and the end goal for funding needed. Finally, we settled on climate change — at least for a bit until either global warming or global cooling would rear its brief appearance once again.

The thing is, they may have been and may still be completely true.

Somehow, I ended up reading a report recently discussing how we may have as much as 80% of life on earth extinct by the year 2048. Much of that life was centered on the oceans. Only 1% of the world’s oceans are protected, the report said. Fishes and plants, slimy creatures and creepy underwater crawlies were all not only at risk, but had crossed the barrier to where fate had already determined they just would not be. 

Then, I checked the date of the article. It was 2006. Thirteen years ago. And while we still have species at risk for sure, the future isn’t quite as dim as you would expect nearly a quarter of the way to mass extinctions.

I did more research to become a little current. There is a recent report talking about how we have had at least 680 species go extinct since the year 1500. Out of an estimated eight million different species, honestly, that doesn’t seem to far from what should happen. That is an average of just over one species extinction per year over the last 520 years. In 2018, we discovered 228 new species alone. Granted some of the new discoveries are included in the eight million species as creatures that we just haven’t found yet.

But is it climate change that attributes to the extinctions? Is it human interaction and contact that accelerates a species from being no more?

Well, the short answer is yes. The world has always gone through climate change. The oceans used to be inland as far as I-95 in North Carolina. Deserts used to be rain forests and rain forests used to be deserts. It is what the world does. And species that can adapt to that change survive. That is Darwin 101, in scientific speak.

Those that do adapt, often do so by finding new habitats. And the invasive species finds a foothold and may cause other species to dwindle. We as humans are also part of that circle of life, and we have caused our fair share of extinctions, whether directly or indirectly.

Fortunately, we as humans also can spot when things are going awry and do things to help correct and protect whether through conservation or preservation. Unfortunately, it doesn’t always work out the way we hope.

But that is the way the world works naturally.

Bill Howard is an avid bowhunter and outdoorsman. He teaches hunter education (IHEA) and bowhunter education (IBEP) in North Carolina. He is a member of North Carolina Bowhunters Association and Pope & Young, and is an official measurer for both.

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