Why Endangered Species MatterCarter Roberts is president and CEO of the World Wildlife Fund, a nonprofit conservation group.
How do you justify spending millions to protect plants and animals when humans are struggling?
This is not an either/or choice. Our environment produces things that are fundamental to human life—and to saving human life. For example, many of the leading cancer drugs come from plants like the rosy periwinkle. If we only have species that coexist well with humans, we’ll be left with starlings, rats, pigeons, and a few dogs and cats.
Why does it matter if we lose a species?
There are incredible consequences when species disappear, consequences we can’t foresee. With the decline of predators such as wolves on the East Coast, the deer population exploded and we had an increase in Lyme disease.
Can we change the fates of endangered species?
We’ve reintroduced 120 species into the wild. When we succeed, as we did with the bald eagle, it gives the world hope. Right now, there are only a couple of thousand tigers left in the wild. But with the right protections, they can come back.
What are we doing right and wrong in terms of the environment?
The rush into biofuels has had unintended consequences, like the destruction of the tropical rain forest—20% of our CO emissions come from cutting down those trees. Our best path would be toward greater energy efficiency. The future of our planet rests on our ability to produce more with less.
— Lyric Wallwork Winik
Parade Magazine 3/1/09