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The Guardian view on biodiversity collapse: the crisis humanity can no longer ignore | Editorial

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A million animal and plant species are perilously close to extinction. Their fate and ours are intimately connected

In an essay entitled The Sense of Wonder, the American conservationist Rachel Carson suggested two questions to make us think more deeply about our natural environment. “What if I had never seen this before? What if I knew I would never see it again?”

Published in 1955, Carson’s call to mindfulness was influential in the burgeoning postwar environmental movement. But despite campaigners’ best efforts, the sense of jeopardy lurking within her second question is now acute. Wild animal populations are declining annually by about 2.5% as a result of habitat loss, invasive species, pollution, climate change, overfishing and overhunting. Since 1970, overall numbers are down by 69%. Livestock and the human beings who farm them now account for 96% of all the mammals on Earth. The Sumatran tiger, the Bornean orangutan and the hellbender salamander are among the million animal and plant species judged perilously close to extinction.

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