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Five Ways to Fight the Sixth Great Extinction

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How about this for a headline to scare ya: According to the American Museum of Natural History, seven in ten biologists believe that a mass extinction event poses an enormous threat to human existence. Here’s another one to alarm you: Biodiversity loss is a more serious environmental problem than the well-publicized threat of global warming. And one last shock: most people outside of science underestimate the seriousness of biodiversity loss.

Whelp – That’s a lot to take in.

I always considered myself someone who cares about the environment – you know, I recycle, turn off the lights, try to take short showers – but biodiversity loss? How the heck do you stop that? During my work on the sixth great extinction series, I got the chance to speak with experts, researchers and students who are all working to reverse the sixth great extinction.

Here are five tips I learned from these amazingly smart and talented people.

1.  Learn and then just start talking.  Biodiversity loss may be the biggest threat to our species, but it doesn’t often make headlines. Dr. Allison Roberts from the San Diego Zoo spoke with us about the great conservation work zoos are doing worldwide to promote biodiversity sustainability. She says well-run zoos are a great place for people to meet new species and learn about biodiversity. And the more people who know about it, the more people who will work to make a change.

2.  Make your actions count. The students at Medomak Valley High School in Waldoboro, Maine taught me this one. Every day, their horticulture class works to save, plant and grow seeds. Their actions are literally helping to save plant biodiversity. You don’t have to create your own seed bank to make a difference – every action helps. Make smart consumer choices and buy sustainable products whenever possible. Recycle and reuse everything you can. And try to reduce all waste in the first place. An added challenge? Try gardening. As I learned from Medomak Valley high school – home grown food always tastes better!

3.  Appreciate the wilderness.  When I was meeting with environmentalists and ranchers in Oregon about the ongoing wolf debate, I was struck by how much everyone loved the land. It didn’t matter what side they were on, both groups genuinely loved their beautiful home of Northeast Oregon. With all the talk about protecting the environment, it’s important to stop and remember what we’re trying to save – one-of-a-kind, take-your-breath-away areas of wilderness.

4.  Simply take it seriously, because your life depends on it.  After all – humans are a species! And we depend on many of the species that are beginning to decline. This fact hit me hard while working with the researchers at Oregon State’s Honey Bee lab. Bees help create more than one third of the food we eat – without them, many scientists question how long the human race can survive.

5.  Get Political.  Dr. Richard Pearson from the American
Museum of Natural History says the number one way to make a big impact
is to make big changes – things like legislative reform, new
environmental bills and land protection. These decisions are
made by elected officials that you vote for! Dr. Pearson recommends voting for people who are
working to protect the environment, write to them and express your
concern, and when a decision is being made tell them how feel. Democracy
might just be the number one way to counter biodiversity loss.

The good news? All our experts agree that while we are on the verge of the sixth great extinction – it hasn’t happened yet. The changes we make today can change the future and reverse biodiversity loss.

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Today, most supermarkets sell cheap and sustainable cloth, canvas and mesh grocery bags. Not only do these bags help you avoid using wasteful paper or plastic bags, but many supermarkets reward customers for bringing their own sustainable bags when they shop with a five or ten-cent discount when you use your own bag.

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Re-useable water bottles are not only better for your health (studies show that when plastic bottles are left in the heat, harmful toxins seep into the water, but they are better for your allowance too. Buying a $10-$15 water bottle once will not only save money, but perhaps your health as well.

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Everyone charges their phone when they go to bed. But unlike people, a cell phone doesn’t need a full eight hours of recharging. Try charging your phone for one hour before you go to bed. Chances are, your phone battery will be good to go and your daily contribution to the electricity bill will be delightfully reduced.

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With driving comes responsibility - to the environment. By starting a carpool with your friends, you not only eliminate harmful carbon emissions by decreasing the number of cars on the road, but you will also eliminate asking your parents for more gas money.

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Propose to your teachers that you and your classmates submit assignments online to cut down on that pricey print and ink quota - not to mention saving some trees in the process.

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