We killed the baiji
Dr. Pitman studies marine mammals and recently returned from an expedition to the Yangtze River to find the baiji.
"The whole river ecosystem is going down the tubes in the name of rampant economic development. There is a huge environmental debt accruing on the Yangtze, and baiji was perhaps just the first installment.
Globally, scientists have been warning for some time of an impending anthropogenic mass extinction worldwide. Previous bouts of human-caused extinctions were due mainly to directed take: humans hunting for food. What we are seeing now is probably the first large animal that has ever gone extinct merely as an indirect consequence of human activity: a victim of market forces and our collective lifestyle.
Nobody eats baiji and no tourists pay to see it — there were no reasons to take it deliberately, but there was no economic reason to save it, either. It is gone because too many people got too efficient at catching fish in the river and it was incidental bycatch. And it is perhaps a view of the future for much of the rest of the world and an indication that the predicted mass extinction is arriving on schedule."
I'm not sure that anyone besides ecologists, biologists and other enviro-minded folk are clued into how important animals and plants and ecosystems are to our survival. The modern environmental movement has shifted away from the conservationist mindset to a responsible-consumerist framework, and I'm not sure that alone will be enough to save habitats on the brink of destruction. In the quest for global economic equity (poverty reduction) and the elusive emission reduction goals, there really must be more of a consideration and effort on an international level for preservation and restoration, because we're not only destroying the ability for animals to live, but we are also compromising our own health and safety.