(EnviroNews California) — Bon Tempe Dam, Marin County, California — In 2020, the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) – one of the world’s most prominent wildlife advocacy organizations – released an analysis that left many people stunned: Earth lost 68 percent of all wildlife on the planet in just 50 years. The organization’s report stated, “The findings are clear: Our relationship with nature is broken.”
And though some politicians and scientists debate if a “sixth mass extinction” is even for real, Representative Jared Huffman (D-CA) is a believer. He reiterated and reinforced his views in an on-camera exclusive with EnviroNews earlier this spring. “I think all of us can see indicators that cause great concern, that it’s also one of these things where if you wait until everyone agrees that you’re in the extinction crisis, it’s probably too late to do much about it. So, I think we’ve really got to listen to these scientists that are telling us that it’s coming,” Huffman said.
And scientific research released in 2020 revealed the annihilation of hundreds of plants and animals is happening right now before our eyes — and if action isn’t taken quickly giant pandas (Ailuropoda melanoleuca), red wolves (Canis rufus), Asir magpies (Pica asirensis) and the Sumatran rhinoceros (Dicerorhinus sumatrensis) will be just some of the species gone forever. Sadly, the aforementioned animals don’t even comprise the tip of the iceberg.
The study, published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, highlighted 515 animal species with fewer than a thousand individuals remaining. The opening paragraph of the research describes how dire the scientists believe the crisis to be. “The ongoing sixth mass extinction may be the most serious environmental threat to the persistence of civilization, because it is irreversible.”
The researchers explained that over the last 450 million years, there have been five mass extinctions where volcanic eruptions, a lack of oxygen in the ocean or an asteroid collision destroyed most plants and animals that existed.
But the study also said we’re now in the middle of a sixth planet-wide extinction, and this time humans are to blame. “[Species] at the brink have been pushed to a critical conservation status because of human activities, where habitat loss and fragmentation, illegal trade, overexploitation, introduced domestic and wild species, toxification and pollution have played a major role. More recently, climate disruption is becoming a major cause of species endangerment,” the scientists wrote.
This spring, Huffman reintroduced a bipartisan bill called the Critically Endangered Animals Conservation Act of 2021 which would establish a fund to authorize $5 million annually for five years to help species at risk worldwide.
In a news release, Huffman said, “Allowing a species to become extinct is a tragedy we should do everything in our power to prevent.” And he wrote, “Our bill will bring the U.S. back as a partner on the global stage to reverse the extinction crisis and support conservation projects for the world’s most vulnerable species. This is a moral and economic imperative that we cannot ignore.”
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) would administer the money working with the Multinational Species Conservation Fund. If adopted, it would help animals listed as endangered or critically endangered on the International Union for Conservation of Nature’s (IUCN) Red List of Threatened Species. Right now, the legislation has been assigned to the House Committee on Natural Resources where it has been idle since March 3.
Huffman first introduced the legislation in 2019, and back then he faced criticism from fellow lawmakers and experts questioning the reality of the environmental crisis. The GOP’s House Committee on Natural Resources’ Facebook page posted a video mocking Huffman stating, “Rep. Huffman should curb his enthusiasm on mass extinction.” This, after a witness Huffman called to testify said we weren’t in the midst of a mass extinction.
On March 26, 2021, EnviroNews Editor-in-Chief Emerson Urry interviewed Huffman at Bon Tempe Dam in Marin County on this very topic in an effort to gain more clarity. The two-minute on-camera segment can be seen in the video player atop this story. The transcript reads as follows:
Emerson Urry: So, speaking of the committee, the Select Committee [on] Climate Crisis, there’s a lot of scientists out there that are saying we are in another very dire crisis, and they call that the “sixth mass extinction.” What’s your opinion on that? Are we in a sixth mass extinction?
Jared Huffman: Well, the experts, the best experts in the world, the folks on the UN panels tell us we are. And I think all of us can see indicators that cause great concern, that it’s also one of these things where if you wait until everyone agrees that you’re in the extinction crisis, it’s probably too late to do much about it. So, I think we’ve really got to listen to these scientists that are telling us that it’s coming. I have a colleague, Ed Case, from Hawaii. Hawaii’s the epicenter of extinction. I mean, they’ve got species blinking out by the hundreds. And he’s offered some really sobering statistics for his state. So, we’re trying to do our best. I held the first hearing in my Water, Oceans, and Wildlife Subcommittee, where we brought those very UN experts in to tell us about this. And, of course, my Republican colleagues wanted to claim we were being Chicken Little and alarmists. And like with every environmental threat, they tried to suggest that there’s really nothing to worry about.
Urry: Is there any hope of getting them to come along at all in these efforts?
Huffman: Most of them, no, it’s rather pointless because they are going to do the bidding of industry, and they don’t want to see government action in any of this space. But a few of them, you know, there’s still some vestiges of the old Teddy Roosevelt conservative conservationist ethic. It’s fading. There aren’t many left, but there’s a few. So, in Pennsylvania, there’s a republican, Brian Fitzpatrick, who often joins me in co-sponsoring legislation to protect the Arctic Refuge and to get us back into the Paris Agreement and to do other things. And I really appreciate that.
VIEW MORE SEGMENTS FROM THIS ENVIRONEWS FEATURE INTERVIEW SERIES WITH REPRESENTATIVE JARED HUFFMAN