Shifting Baselines

Today is Endangered Species Day, a resolution introduced by Maine Senator Susan Collins and California Senator Dianne Feinstein to help increase awareness about threats to endangered wildlife, fish and plants.

In celebration, let’s look at this article in the BBC about how wildlife populations are plummeting.

Between a quarter and a third of the world’s wildlife has been lost since 1970, according to data compiled by the Zoological Society of London.

Populations of land-based species fell by 25%, marine by 28% and freshwater by 29%, it says.

Humans are wiping out about 1% of all other species every year, and one of the “great extinction episodes” in the Earth’s history is under way, it says.

Pollution, farming and urban expansion, over-fishing and hunting are blamed.

And then check out WWF’s assessment of the ecological footprint per person for different countries. Shame on the U.S.:


Mexico has it’s own problems with an announcement that came late last month that the last private reserve for nesting sea turtles near Cabo San Lucas is threatened by development. These ancient, air-breathing reptiles have nested on our shores for millions of years. Read more about what one group is trying to do to save their habitat here.

As the BBC article asserts, the worst hit species live in the oceans. Marine species plummeted by 28% in just 10 years, between 1995 and 2005. A day to recognize what we’ve destroyed (Endangered Species Day)–some therapy for the shifting baseline syndrome…


  1. #1 Sadie
    May 19, 2008

    Hi Jennifer,

    Thanks for the great post- as always. The Nova Scotia-based Ecology Action Centre’s “Stitchin’ Fish” project also (un)celebrated Endangered Species Day this past Friday:

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