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In sickening news alert on the state of the planet: Earth’s ecosystems are vanishing at an alarming rate, killing off mankind’s fellow creatures as never before, and as never imagined.

Writing in the journal Nature, James Watson, James Allan and others surveyed this pale blue dot and found that 77 percent of land and 87 percent of the ocean has now been aggressively — and often irrevocably — changed by human activities.

Undisturbed wilderness areas happen to be the places that most efficiently suck up the carbon dioxide that causes global warming. But it’s almost obscene to talk about nature solely in terms of its utility to the dominant species. We must preserve and protect landscapes and seascapes, and the animals within them, for their own inherent value.

But wait, here’s another news alert: A second report released last week, this one by the World Wildlife Fund, says that since 1970, thousands of carefully monitored vertebrate animal populations — reptiles, amphibians, fish, birds and mammals like us — have declined by an average of 60 percent.

We here are fans of humans, and of human development. Homo sapiens is the only species that makes art, and the only one that reads editorials. We want people to be able to house, clothe and feed themselves, including by eating animals.

But if humans don’t learn to live in relative harmony with other living things — if creatures great and small continue to vanish as we flourish — we will have gained the world and lost our souls.

-- New York Daily News

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