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Gone but not forgotten: The extinction list is getting longer
Po’ouli photo by Hawaii DLNR Division of Forestry and Wildlife
Po’ouli photo by Hawaii DLNR Division of Forestry and Wildlife. The po’ouli, or black-faced honeycreeper, is an extinct species of bird that was endemic to the island of Maui in Hawaii. In 2004, only two known birds remained, and since then, no further birds have been sighted.

Toward the end of September, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service proposed to remove 22 animals and a plant from the endangered species list because of extinction. They join the list of 650 U.S. species that have likely been lost to extinction.

Species being proposed for the list include the ivory-billed woodpecker, Bachman’s warbler, Scioto madtom, San Marcos gambusia, eight species of Southeastern freshwater mussels, eight birds and a flower from Hawaii, and a bird and bat from Guam.

Extinction can be a natural part of evolution but it can be slowed – or greatly sped up – by human activity. Poaching and loss of habitat affect the survival of endangered species. Scholarly reports also draw links between biodiversity loss and climate change. According to a United Nations-backed report from 2019 by the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services, “an estimated 5% of all species would be threatened with extinction by 2° C of warming above pre-industrial levels – a threshold that the world could breach in the next few decades, unless greenhouse-gas emissions are drastically reduced. Earth could lose 16% of its species if the average global temperature rise exceeds 4.3° C.”

Unfortunately, the things we do to survive may be driving other species to extinction. “About 75% of land and 66% of ocean areas have been ‘significantly altered’ by people, driven in large part by the production of food, according to the IPBES report,” an article published by reported.

As a political issue, Democrats are more likely than Republicans to see climate change as a threat to the country or as a cause for great concern, according to the Pew Research Center. Although Republicans express a degree of skepticism toward climate scientists and may consider addressing climate change as a low priority, some of them are supportive of some conservative policy changes. This is especially true for younger members of the GOP and those who describe their political views as “moderate.”

“Republicans place economic considerations at the top of the list when asked about the factors they view as important in proposals to deal with climate change,” the Pew Research Center reports. “About two-thirds of Republicans (65%) say increasing job and economic growth is a very important consideration to them in proposals to reduce the effects of climate change, and 61% say the same about keeping consumer costs low.”

It would seem that this is the common ground where political negotiations could start. Plans to rebuild the country’s infrastructure need to include measures aimed at reducing climate change. The tricky part is coming up with a proposal that won’t hurt the U.S. economy – the Kansas farmers and oil producers included. If we fail, we can say goodbye to many more species of plants and animals in the future. Like a canary in a coal mine (once used to detect carbon monoxide and other toxic gasses before they hurt humans), the now-extinct ivory-billed woodpecker may be warning us that humans are next.