Threat Of Mass Extinction Of Species Is Real
From the Islamic point of view, the world that we live in is a trust given by Allah SWT to be looked after by mankind. This is a huge responsibility on the shoulders of mankind in ensuring that the world is developed and at the same time, being well looked after. It is therefore critical that the balance of the natural world, among other things, are preserved.
In this regards, the Quran has mentioned in verses 19 and 20 to the effect that: “And the earth We have spread out; set thereon mountains firm and immovable; and produced therein all kinds of things in due balance. And We have provided therein means of subsistence, for you and for those for whose sustenance you are not responsible.”
Unfortunately, we are seeing uncontrolled and unsustainable development happening at a pace that is threatening the balance of the ecosystem bringing about problems such as climate change and its many impacts. One of these impacts is the mass extinction of species which is now happening at an alarming rate.
Mass extinction may not be a phrase familiar to the modern geological age. Nonetheless, evidences are piling up that it is happening in front of our eyes. Climate change, coupled with human acts such as deforestation and conversion of lands to agricultural use, are among the reasons attributed for driving many species of animals to extinction.
A paper published in 2017 by Ceballos, Ehrlich and Dirzo looked at 27,600 terrestrial vertebrate species found that the fauna population is dwindling in size as a result of a “massive anthropogenic erosion of biodiversity and of the ecosystem services essential to civilization.” The authors of the paper termed the situation as a “biological annihilation.”
In another study, co-authored by Sánchez-Bayo and Wyckhuys, published in early 2019, it is found that 40% of insect species are at risk of extinction particularly due to habitat loss by conversion to intensive agriculture. The paper highlighted, among others an earlier research, which found the abundance of moths in Mount Kinabalu has reduced by 19% between 1965 and 2007 as a result of global warming over the four decades.
If this trend continues, it is postulated that there will be no insects at all in one hundred years from now. If this happens, the balanced ecosystem would be upset causing all sorts of problems for mankind and other living creatures. Many species of insects have significant roles to play in the ecosystem, especially as pollinating agents as well as sources of food for other animals which in turn are important food supply for mankind.
Not only are insects in danger of extinction, mammals are too. In March 2019, marine scientists with the International Committee for the Recovery of the Vaquita (CIRVA) reported that an elusive marine mammal, the vaquita (a relative of porpoises, dolphins and whales), is going extinct before our eyes with only ten are estimated to be alive.
Powers and Jetz in a recent 2019 paper meanwhile projected that in five decades, some 376 species of mammals, 436 species of birds and 886 species amphibians will lose up to half of their current habitat due to “global decadal land-use” by humans.
Human activities certainly have an impact which drive animals to extinction, and what is even scarier is that mammal diversity will need millions of years to recover from the current biodiversity crisis, as highlighted by Davis, Faurby and Svenning in a 2018 paper.
Human activities also contribute towards climate change which increases the Earth’s temperature. Up to 93% of the excess heat trapped on Earth is being absorbed by the oceans. A group of researchers who published in a 2018 edition of Nature found that the oceans are heating up 40% faster than initially thought.
The impact that the rising temperature of oceans have on marine life is devastating. As an example, it has been recorded that the number of coral reefs, which support many other species of marine life, have been halved in the past half a century. Warming oceans also carry the very real risk of rising sea levels, which in turn poses a great risk on susceptible habitats of coastal species.
Unfortunately, some of us may feel that the problem of mass extinction is not worth the attention as it seems distant from our everyday lives. Nonetheless, apathy and indifference cannot deny the fact that human beings are part and parcel of the ecosystem. The reality is, when the balance is tilted or when the chain is broken, we would then certainly feel the brunt of nature’s wrath.
The consensus of many researchers is that humans are to blame for the mass extinction that is currently happening. Unsustainable development and uncontrolled human activities have driven extinction rates 1,000 times higher during the last 100 years.
Let us not forget this very apt reminder from verse 56 of Surah al-A’raf in the Quran: “Do no mischief on the Earth, after it has been set in order, but call on Him with fear and longing (in your hearts) for the Mercy of God is (always) near to those who do good.”
Therefore, it is important that we start acting on mitigating the problems that impact our ecosystem. The problem is indeed real. In Malaysia itself, a number of species such as the Malayan tigers are on the verge of extinction. Awareness must be created and followed up by concrete action to ensure that the mass extinction of species could be drastically slowed down, if not altogether halted.