Urbanization (United Nations Development Programme, 2016). Human interference

Urbanization is one of the biggest factors thatdisrupt the distribution of species. One of the most noticeable inhibitors tonatural species distribution is the increased land allocation to urbanexpansion. A personal example that comes to mind was the development of yetanother neighborhood community on my street. In my sweet hometown of SaratogaSprings, New York, I was lucky enough to grow up on the only farm in town.Surrounding the 100 acre plot of land on all sides are neighborhoods of housingpiled on top of one another.

One of our neighbors had a sufficient amount ofland in their backyard that was recently sold to developers, who in a span oftwo years created dozens of houses on what was once a field full of wildlife.Before this instance, there has been plenty of issues of people finding deer,fishers, woodchucks in their backyards, plus the rare event of finding a moose (thatwas mistaken for one of our horses) in the road. It sounds like I live in avery rural area, but Saratoga Springs has a population of 27,000 people in 27square miles (a nice, simple conversion to average 1,000 people in a squaremile, if not more in the densely populated areas closer to the city center). Itis extremely sad to see the continuous changes brought on upon by habitat lossand fragmentation in developing infrastructure. The creation ofbarriers for animal and plant migration changes typical movement patterns. Onthe other hand, this limitation of space and resources could increasediversification by catalyzing the need to adapt to new breeding and feedinghabits, under the assumption it doesn’t cause extinction first.

This wouldtypically be the case with endemic species as they are more vulnerable toalterations. The invasion of humans displaces wild animals into close quarterswith humans and domesticated pets, which can then lead to the exchange ofdiseases. One terrifying reality is the black plague being caused by fleas onrodents; if those that are infected come in to contact with pets and humans,there is a 10% chance of a full-blown outbreak. Emerging infectious diseasesfrom zoonoses and massive epidemics are highly likely when environments arecompromised and megacities are created. Human population growth is increasingat an exponential rate; in 2014 more than half the world’s people lived inurban areas, a share expected to reach two-thirds by 2050, when cities willhave swollen by another 2.5 billion people (United Nations DevelopmentProgramme, 2016).

Human interference not only disturbs natural wildlifediversity, it impacts human health.The health of humans goes hand in hand with conservationas biodiversity is the foundation to securing our overall well-being. Eventhough the connection not always apparent or overlooked, there are manydependency factors. Human health is contingent on ecological productions offood, fresh water and fuel sources.

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A great example of this was the destructionof Puerto Rico’s infrastructure, environment and ecosystem in its entirety postHurricane Maria. There will be severe conflictions and a long road to recoveryin search of restoring some balance to the island. If people focus on improvingtheir surroundings, that coincides with their personal health. A basic healthindicator is water quality for consumption and sanitation on social andeconomic prosperity. Lacking essentials can be a serious public health issuethat integrates both environmental and human well-being dimensions.

Prioritizing conservation and sustainability policies are often simultaneouslyimplemented in response to economic strife’s, but not always translated overwith its original intent. Often times, I believe many of the things that we allknow are healthy for us end up being the most time consuming and unappealing.For example, getting in to the habit of going to the gym early in the morningor spending the time prepping meals can seem taxing, even when everyone isaware of the benefits. Humans have the tendency to find the shortest route totheir goal. To continue with this example, fasting or dieting to lose weight.However, short cuts are not sustainable. The parallels drawn with this examplecan be found in policies, or lack thereof, promoting biodiversity conservation.

Humans are creatures of habit; it is difficult to rapidly change routines andexpect immediate results. If humans can deviate time and resources to overallimprovement to themselves and their environment, healthier living will beachieved over time. Within anecosystem, everything is connected, and if one element is off balance, then theentire system which humans rely on heavily on will collapse. If conservation isnot of the upmost importance now, it will have long term repercussions on thesustainability on future generations. Biodiversity contains a series of checksand balances; reconciliation of previous harmful choices mankind has chosenwill be a long process. Unfortunately, us as humans cannot change the past andwill have to work with our current situation.

Small steps or investmentstowards choosing sustainable lifestyles not only as individuals but for our environment,an impact, a ripple effect, of positive influences will be seen. I am hopingthat issues pertaining to conservation will be more notably recognized to thepublic through the media instead of the current repetitive and unproductive newstories that are constantly broadcasted. This will translate to a call to actionfor the public to stop being passive and get involved on a serious level. Awarenessand education to all levels of society on conservation concerns can be a first steptoward healthy living for humans and the species of plants and animals we sharethe world with.

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