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Erhlich & Myers: Pollution & Overpopulation Causing Sixth Extinction Episode

11/02/16 By Hannah Davis

“We’re exterminating species at about 1,000 times the rate” that we used to, Dr. Pete Myers said on October 20 at the Center for the Environment.

Myers and Dr. Paul Ehrlich spoke to a crowd of around 200 people about how pollution and overpopulation are causing what they are coining as the “6th extinction episode” and the “second mass extinction event.”

Poor regulations of environmental toxins are the foundation of all of our current world problems – even the Mideast refugee crisis, according to Myers. The toxins in question vary from pesticides to micro-beads (small beads made of non-biodegradable plastics). Myers even said these micro-beads have been found in invertebrates at the very bottom of the Mariana Trench – the deepest part of our ocean – proving his point that “we have ‘toxified’ the most remote places on the planet” without even realizing the damage we are causing.

Dr. Pete Myers

After Myers explained what the problems were with our current environmental standards, Ehrlich followed by talking about why poor regulation is a problem the audience should be concerned with, and what can be done.

“The real problem is the loss of populations that we depend on,” said Ehrlich. These populations include honeybees whose pollination is worth, according to Ehrlich, “up to $8 billion a year” to our society. While touching on the effect of the extermination of species, Ehrlich blamed the loss of these species on the overpopulation and resulting inequality among humans. Ehrlich said that “when I was born there were about 2 billion [people]” and, currently there are around 7.4 billion people on earth.

The United Nations predicts that the human population should reach 9.6 billion people by 2050 if we advance at our current rates, according to Ehrlich. He shared these numbers with the audience to reemphasize Myers point that our population density is affecting our environment currently, so if we keep expanding, what are the consequences we can expect as a human race?

So how can we fix these environmental issues? Ehrlich claims that most books on how to help the environment will say that the best way we can help would be easy things such as buying local, organic foods, carpooling, installing solar panels and recycling. However, Ehrlich said that “If we keep the population and consumption growing [at our current rate, then] recycling will keep the population open [for] about 14 hours.” However, Ehrlich reassured his audience that change is possible – recalling that he has lived through the fall of Hitler, the end of communism, and the end of the 1960’s segregation era. He claimed that “humans are capable of change,” and that “nothing is like it was before” so the change in policy on the environment is possible but it just takes time.  

Ehrlich ending his talk by saying, “My message to you is to work like hell to ripen the time that we have left because we haven’t got much. Thank you.”

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