Valentine’s Day. A day for lovers.
But according to the Center for Biological Diversity (CBD), it could be a very bad day for biodiversity.
That’s because, so goes the argument, what lovers (heterosexual lovers, anyway) do—not just on Valentine’s Day but all year long—threatens to increase human population.
And, as everyone knows, growing human population leads to more species extinctions.
The CBD, citing Harvard biologist E.O. Wilson, claims that “30,000 species per year (or three species per hour) are being driven to extinction,” constituting “a crisis unparalleled in human history,” warranting its being called “Earth’s sixth mass extinction crisis.”
You know for sure their claims are solidly scientific, backed by hard empirical data, when they tell us “we’re now losing species at 1,000 to 10,000 times the background rate.”
Hmmmm. A range that’s an order of magnitude. How credible is that?
“The current mass extinction differs from all others in being driven by a single species rather than a planetary or galactic physical process,” the CBD says. “The third and largest [mass extinction] wave began in 1800 with the harnessing of fossil fuels. With enormous, cheap energy at its disposal, the human population grew rapidly from 1 billion in 1800 to … over 7 billion today.”
Ahh, yes, fossil fuels. Those evil things. They gave us all that energy that enabled people to conquer poverty so that, though they didn’t start breeding like rabbits (actually, their fertility rates fell), they did stop dying like flies.
Further, “Current population growth trends indicate that the number of threatened species will increase by 7 percent over the next 20 years and 14 percent by 2050. And that’s without the addition of global warming impacts.” The CBD cites a study that concluded that “human population density predicted with 88-percent accuracy the number of endangered birds and mammals as identified by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature” (IUCN).
Well, density perhaps, but not total human population. Dense urban areas cover less than 3 percent of the earth’s land mass. That leaves a lot of land (not to mention oceans, lakes, and streams) where other species can, and do, thrive.
So, what does the CBD want done about all this? It wants people to have fewer babies. And it’s offering to help them by handing out “endangered species condoms” at the Carnegie Science Center’s adults-only Valentine’s event tonight in Pittsburgh and another event at the San Diego Natural History Museum.
The wrappers feature colorful artwork and slogans like “Before it gets any hotter … remember the sea otter,” and “Can’t refrain? Think of the whooping crane.” …
Lamont Craven, adult programs coordinator at the Carnegie Science Center, says “the condoms are a perfect fit for our event. The packaging highlights a dire topic, while the contents are actionable ways to solve the problem.”
Except that, like so many environmental crises, the extinction crisis is bogus.
Oh, sure, many scientists endorse it—just as many do the claims of dangerous manmade global warming. But the same fatal flaw afflicts both theories.
The flaw? They’re based entirely on models, not on observation of what’s happening in the real world. And observations conflict with the models’ predictions.
But fail they do—miserably.
Perhaps the best demonstration of that occurred in the 1980s, when statistician Aaron Wildavsky and economist Julian Simon published “Assessing the Empirical Claims of the ‘Biodiversity Crisis.‘” According to its executive summary,
For several years now, the World Wildlife Fund and other wildlife interest groups have been saying such things as, “Without firing a shot, we may kill one-fifth of all species of life on this planet with the next 10 years.” One problem with such assertions is that there is no scientific justification for making them. Based on the most up-to-date published data concerning species loss:
- Known extinction rates are very low;
- It is impossible to estimate even approximately how many unrecorded species may have become extinct;
- We do not know how many species exist, even to within an order of magnitude, and therefore have no basis upon which to assert that we know what percentage is going extinct;
- Relatively few attempts have been made to rigorously assess the likely magnitude of extinction rates.
Edward O. Wilson, the foremost proponent of global efforts to stem the purportedly unsustainable loss of species, says that “the extinction problem” is “absolutely undeniable.” Wilson cites “literally hundreds of anecdotal reports” to support his claim. However, the very reason for the scientific method in estimating rates is that anecdotal reports are of little or no value, and often mislead the public and policymakers. ….
Simon and Wildavsky went on to challenge the claims of rapid species extinction there and in other articles, including their chapter “Disappearing Species and the Absence of Data” in the book The Resourceful Earth (1984). They pointed out that after following out all the source notes they could find for such claims, they had been unable to find any empirical basis—any at all—for any of the claims about rapid extinction rates. So they challenged biologists to provide it.
In response, extinction alarmists launched an effort to provide the empirical basis. The result was the IUCN’s book Tropical Deforestation and Species Extinction (1992), the foreword to which, by IUCN Director-General Martin Holdgate, said,
The coastal forests of Brazil have been reduced in area as severely as any tropical forest type in the world. According to calculation, this should have led to considerable species loss. Yet no known species of its old, largely endemic, fauna can be regarded as extinct. Genetic erosion has undoubtedly taken place, and the reduced, remnant populations may be much more vulnerable to future change, but the study illustrates the need for very careful field documentation to compare with calculation in this and other situations.
The case for alarmism didn’t improve after that. Chapter after chapter concluded, in essence, that the author—a field researcher—had expected to find evidence of many extinctions in the location he studied but had found very few—nothing remotely in the range necessary to justify the claim of thousands per year globally. For examples:
[W. V. Reid:] . . . 60 birds and mammals are known to have become extinct between 1900 and 1950. [p. 55]
[D. Simberloff:] It is a commonplace that forests of the eastern United States were reduced over two centuries to fragments totalling 1-2% of their original extent, and that during this destruction, only three forest birds went extinctCthe Carolina parakeet (Conuropsis carolinensis), the ivory-billed woodpecker (Campephilus principalis principalis), and the passenger pigeon (Ectopistes migratorius). Although deforestation certainly contributed to the decline of all three species, it was probably not critical for the pigeon or the parakeet (Greenway, 1967). Why, then, would one predict massive extinction from similar destruction of tropical forest? [p. 85. Yet Simberloff makes such predictions.] [V. H. Heywood and S. N. Stuart:] IUCN, together with the World Conservation Monitoring Centre, has amassed large volumes of data from specialists around the world relating to species decline [worldwide], and it would seem sensible to compare these more empirical data with the global extinction estimates. In fact, these and other data indicate that the number of recorded extinctions for both plants and animals is very small. . . . [p. 93] [Heywood and Stuart:] Known extinction rates [worldwide] are very low. Reasonably good data exist only for mammals and birds, and the current rate of extinction is about one species per year (Reid and Miller, 1989). If other taxa were to exhibit the same liability to extinction as mammals and birds (as some authors suggest, although others would dispute this), then, if the total number of species in the world is, say, 30 million, the annual rate of extinction would be some 2300 species per year. This is a very significant and disturbing number, but it is much less than most estimates given over the last decade. [p. 94] [K. S. Brown and G. G. Brown:] . . . the group of zoologists could not find a single known animal species which could be properly declared as extinct [in the Brazilian tropical forest area], in spite of the massive reduction in area and fragmentation of their habitats in the past decades and centuries of intensive human activity. A second list of over 120 lesser-known animal species, some of which may later be included as threatened, show no species considered extinct; and the older Brazilian list of threatened plants, presently under revision, also indicated no species as extinct (Cavalcanti, 1981). [p. 127] [Whitmore and Sayer:] Estimates of plant and invertebrate extinctions are inevitably largely a matter of speculation. Consequences for species survival of the degradation, partial clearance and fragmentation of large forest areas are simply not known though biologists have begun to think about the problem (e.g. Simberloff, chapter 4). [p. 9]
I could go on with many more such quotes. You can find them in Appendix 2 of my book Where Garden Meets Wilderness: Evangelical Entry into the Environmental Debate, which is online here. The fact is that the massive global research project launched precisely to find empirical basis for claims of rapid species extinction concluded there was none.
Alas, just as global warming alarmists continue their mantra in the face of all the empirical evidence, species extinction alarmists do the same. The absurd, evidence-deficient claims of the 1970s and 1980s continue right on to today, as if the IUCN’s study had never been done. That’s one sure sign that what’s going on is not science but the determined promotion of a predetermined political agenda.
Why are the claims so grossly wrong? Because they rest on biodiversity models (e.g., “island biogeography”) that are highly unrealistic. As Tropical Deforestation editors T.C. Whitmore and J.A. Sayer wrote, “the relationship between forest loss and species loss is not arithmetic. To extrapolate upon such a relationship presents an excessively pessimistic view” [p. 11].
So, this Valentine’s Day, don’t be misled by the Center for Biological Diversity’s whining. Instead, now and always, welcome children as the blessing they are (Psalms 127 and 128).