Man's destructive impact on nature
People are changing the world and not always in good ways. Humanity's impact on the Earth, from the destruction of coral reefs to global warming, threatens to forever alter biodiversity and, with it, evolutionary links that go back to life's beginnings.
by Judy Lin, Originally published in UCLA Today
Sounding an ecological alarm, scientists gathered for "Evolutionary Change in Human-altered Environments," an international summit held Feb. 8-10 at Covel Commons and sponsored by UCLA's Institute of the Environment (IOE). Topics ranged from the legacy of whaling to microevolution in Chicago-area mice.
The summit also drew more than 20 environmental policy experts from the U.S. and Canada.
"It is becoming increasingly clear that there are huge areas of science not known to people in the policy arena," said IOE Director Mary D. Nichols, who served in the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency during the Clinton administration. It is critical, she said, that scientists and policymakers work together to address the growing crisis.
Keynote speaker Georgina Mace, director of the Centre for Population Biology at Imperial College London, said that since 1950, human intervention has caused more changes in the ecosystem than during any other period in history. Animal populations have declined 20% worldwide and the rate of species extinction has accelerated, among numerous other problems.
"How does that all matter?" Mace asked. "Aside from the moral imperative, a good reason (to care) is human well-being." Human disease prevention, food quality, fresh water management and other factors of a quality life are all affected.
"We must integrate our work with wider societal goals," she urged her colleagues, adding, "There's a long way to go."
Published: Wednesday, February 21, 2007