Last updated on February 11, 2024.
“Every year, more than 20,000 species tragically disappear from our planet.”-Jeff Corwin
Jeff Corwin has hosted many television shows about animals. But he’s so much more than a popular television show host. He’s a biologist, wildlife conservationist, educator, advocate, and voice for endangered species across the planet.
This book caught my eye at the local used bookstore and I had to buy it. This is a very intelligible book meant for all audiences. Corwin did not write it academically but he does cite an immense amount of research and scientific studies. I honestly had a hard time putting it down even though it deals with a depressing subject matter. But Corwin countered much of the sorrowful information with stories of progressive movements and hope. And all of it is so important for us to know.
The title comes from the most critically endangered species we are about to lose which has fewer than 100 individual living members left. All are direct consequences of the actions and behaviors of humans. Here, Jeff Corwin talks about the film and book:
I have not been able to find the companion documentary they referred to yet, but if I do I will update this post.
Corwin explained the story of each species delicately yet methodically. I read one review where Corwin was criticized for jumping around from one species to the next in different regions of the world. But one glance at the table of contents reveals that he was clearly dividing his book into thematic sections about the major human causes of endangered species. The sections were:
- Global warming and habitat loss
- The introduction of non-native species, pollution, and disease
- The exploitation of animals for products and economy
I will say that that same review applauded Corwin for his genuineness and for highlighting how we can motivate people around the world to change.
“If you’ve ever doubted that a small group of people can make a big difference in the face of a tide that seems inexorable, organizations like the WWF and the IRF are proof that such a change is possible.” -Jeff Corwin
The Endangered Species list is vast
Corwin explained that there were 3,246 critically endangered species (the highest risk category for endangerment of extinction by the IUCN) in 2009. He wrote: “Whether we realize it or not, we need them…We’re inextricably bound with nature. When we put the survival of the natural world in jeopardy, we simultaneously put our survival in jeopardy.” We’ve harmed landscapes and habitats and entire ecosystems, and it’s going to hurt every species, ourselves included.
“We can’t fall back on letting nature take its course when we’ve changed the land and its inhabitants in ways that nature never intended.” -Jeff Corwin
Oil & Drilling
We all know oil spills are bad. When animals try to lick off oil from their fur or feathers, “the effect is toxic and can induce kidney failure.” They also rely on their fur or feathers for warmth, but when they’re coated in oil, the animal can freeze to death. “Unless they’re rescued – a monumental feat in remote regions – animals affected by oil spills typically die of hypothermia.” This makes me want to stop driving immediately. How do we stop supporting this global need and greed for oil?
Poaching, Slaughter & the Exotic Pet trade
Poaching is another major cause of species endangerment and extinction, although it is not always defined as just the slaughter of wild animals. It often includes animals captured for the exotic pets trade, for which there is a huge demand on the black market. Humans remove those animals from their habitats, affecting the ecosystem. This reduces the populations in more ways than one – since they do not reproduce in that ecosystem, their numbers obviously decline further.
Slaughter for commercial profit is most visible from the slaughter of elephants and rhinoceroses. Humans kill these large animals for only one body part, the tusks or the horns. They leave the rest of the animal to rot. My family and I recently visited the Nashville Zoo and I was impressed with their exhibits about critically endangered species. I took a photo of one about the rhinos because the image so shocked me that it moved me to tears:
We must do better.
“While the dinosaurs disappeared as the result of a natural but catastrophic event, the current causes of extinction are largely the result of human behavior.” -Jeff Corwin
Even though the book made me quite depressed about the state of species across the Earth, the book was very inspiring. It inspired me to feature this review of the book, to read more on the topics, and to write future posts on the subject. Corwin offered hope at every turn.
“We’re not powerless, though. As demonstrated by the success story of the American bald eagle, great strides can be made through compassion and dedication.” -Jeff Corwin
I found the dedication Corwin wrote to his daughters particularly inspiring. Here’s part of it:
“To my daughters…you are both so very precious to your mother and me; your optimism and trust, reflected through a lovely lens of innocence, inspires us…While at present the creatures who share Earth with us are in jeopardy, I have faith that my generation will make things right so you and your children will have the opportunity to thrive upon a rich, healthy, and diverse planet. We will not fail you.“
That’s beautiful, and it’s exactly how I feel about my own child. My son is precious to me and I do not want to leave a devastated planet behind for him to deal with. I want to be part of the change!
I will not fail him.