To save ourselves, half of Earth needs to be given to animals
We're more dependent on them than we realize.
- Scientists says our survival depends on biodiversity.
- A natural climate strategy we often forget.
- Seeing our place among Earth's living creatures.
When we talk about the loss of habitat for animals, it's usually discussed in altruistic terms. Those who love animals are eager to fix it, while others feel it's our planet to do with what we will. It turns out that there may be a 100 percent selfish reason to protect massive swaths of earth for non-humans: It could be the only way to save ourselves. That's the thought-provoking conclusion drawn in a recent article, Space for Nature in Science. It was written by National Geographic's chief scientist, Jonathan Baillie, and zoologist Ya-Ping Zhang, vice president of the Chinese Academy of Sciences. They say we should set aside a third of the oceans and land by 2030, and half of the planet by 2050.
Why we should save so much room for animals
Even putting aside compassion for non-human lives, Baillie points out, "We have to drastically increase our ambition if we want to avoid an extinction crisis and if we want to maintain the ecosystem services that we currently benefit from." Though he doesn't explicitly say so, we can interpret what he's talking about as including human extinction.
Our population is currently 7.6 billion people and is expected to reach 10 billion by 2050. How will we be able to put food in so many mouths? The 50 percent proposal, argues Baillie, is our only hope: "That's why we need an intact planet. If we want to feed the world's population, we have to be thinking about maintaining the ecological systems that allow us to provide that."
And it's not just about our food supply. "We are learning more and more that the large areas that remain are important for providing services for all life," says Baillie. "The forests, for example, are critical for absorbing and storing carbon."
A desert bighorn ewe and her lamb walk across Mojave Trails National Monument.
Photo credit: David McNew / Getty Images
Really? Half the earth for animals?
The article written by Baillie and Zhang explains the 50 percent target: "Most scientific estimates of the amount of space needed to safeguard biodiversity and preserve ecosystem benefits suggest that 25 to 75 percent of regions or major ecosystems must be protected." There's a significant degree of guesswork in those numbers, "because of limited knowledge of the number of species on this planet, poor understanding of how ecosystems function or the benefits they provide, and growing threats such as climate change." Still, it's better to play it safe according to the article, since "targets set too low could have major negative implications for future generations and all life. Any estimate must therefore err on the side of caution."
We need to include ecosystems we barely know about.
Photo credit: Mario Tama / Getty Images
Aren't large areas already protected?
With less than half of the earth's regions free of human impact, about 20 percent of vertebrate animals and plants are currently considered threatened. Yet only 3.6 percent of the oceans and 14.7 percent of the land, according to the authors, are under formal protection.
That's not only just a drop in the bucket, but those figures don't even tell the whole story. Many of these areas are "paper parks," legally set aside but unmanaged—about a third of even these areas are being "quietly ruined" as a result of "intense human pressure."
David Lindenmayer of the Australian National University tells New Scientist, "These protected areas must be well managed. The basis for conservation will need to change so that it becomes a key part of economies and livelihoods."
The Niassa Preserve in Africa is supposedly a "protected" area.
Which half of the earth should we give up?
According to Jose Montoya of France's Station for Theoretical and Experimental Ecology, "The key thing is to protect the right areas." His concern is that nations will allocate their least-valuable areas. "If we merely protect a proportion of the territory, governments will likely protect what's easy, and that's usually areas of low biodiversity and ecosystem service provision."Baillie and Zhang don't consider this possibility to be a deal-breaker so long as we hit the proposed targets.
The authors' focus now is on a meeting of world governments at 2020's Convention on Biological Diversity in Beijing. They don't underestimate the difficulty in gaining global support for their goals, but they also see us as having little choice. As they write, "This will be extremely challenging, but it is possible, and anything less will likely result in a major extinction crisis and jeopardize the health and wellbeing of future generations."
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What would happen if you tripled the US population? Join Matthew Yglesias and Charles Duhigg at 1pm ET on Monday, September 28.
Whether or not women think beards are sexy has to do with "moral disgust"
- A new study found that women perceive men with facial hair to be more attractive as well as physically and socially dominant.
- Women tend to associate more masculine faces with physical strength, social assertiveness, and formidability.
- Women who display higher levels of "moral disgust," or feelings of repugnance toward taboo behaviors, are more likely to prefer hairy faces.
Beards and perceptions of masculinity<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yMjU5OTg0MC9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTY0NzkxMjM3N30.cH-GqNwP5GVqvstgJWAhBPn1B_lYpVEAI0I7iax7EQw/img.jpg?width=1245&coordinates=0%2C1900%2C0%2C849&height=700" id="caae6" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="cb0a355a4e8e1899789bc45f3f7aef56" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" />
Photo Credit: Wikimedia<p>The study used 919 American (mostly white) women ages 18-70 who rated 30 pictures of men they were shown with various stages of facial hair growth. The photographs depicted men with faces that had been digitally altered to look more feminine or more masculine, with a beard and without a beard. The women rated the men according to perceived attractiveness for long-term and short-term relationships. The study found that the more facial hair the men had, the higher the men were rated on their attractiveness, particularly for their suitability for a long-term relationship.</p><p>Part of this might be attributed to facial masculinity — i.e. protruding brow ridge, wide cheekbones, thick jawline, and deeply set narrow eyes — which conveys information to a woman about a man's underlying health and formidability. Women tend to associate more masculine faces with physical strength and social assertiveness. It can also indicate a man with a superior immune response. The researchers suggested that their findings favoring bearded men could be due to the fact that facial hair enhances the masculine facial features on a man's face, like creating the illusion of a thicker jaw line. This could communicate direct benefits to women like resources and protection that would enhance survival among mothers and their infants. In other words, while a beard doesn't mean superior genetics in and of itself, it might be a primitive, ornamental way of saying, "Hey girl, I'm a testosterone-fueled lean, mean, pathogen fighting machine." <br></p><p>It could also be that a beard becomes its own destiny. The researchers in this study cite prior research that found that by growing a beard, men felt more masculine and had higher levels of serum testosterone, which was linked to a higher level of social dominance. They also tended to subscribe to more old-school beliefs about gender roles in their relationships with women as compared to men with clean-shaven faces.<span></span><br></p>
What does disgust have to do with beard preference?<p>Obviously, not all women dig beards. The researchers were particularly interested in what traits make a women prefer bearded men over clean-shaven faces. They looked into several factors including a woman's disgust levels on various concepts, her desire to become pregnant, and her exposure to facial hair in her personal life. </p><p>According to the study, women who were not into facial hair were turned-off by potential parasites or other critters they imagined could be in the hair or skin. Women ranking high on this "ectoparasite disgust" scale might have viewed beards as a sign of poor grooming habits. However, women who ranked higher in levels of "pathogen" did find the bearded men to be desirable, possibly because they perceived beards as a signal of good health and immune function. An intriguing discovery in the study was links to morality. Women who displayed higher levels of "moral disgust," or feelings of repugnance toward taboo behaviors, were more likely to prefer hairy faces. The authors opined that this could reflect a link between beardedness, politically conservative outlooks, and traditional views regarding performances of masculinity in heterosexual relationships.</p>
Additional findings<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yMjU5OTg1My9vcmlnaW4uZ2lmIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTYyNDI1NjUyOX0.P9B8WbmJR0q4nfzYZKbuNSA-2SAigVWJgrQE-_Gxlds/img.gif?width=980" id="49143" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="2ed3b1d6f20fc170bf2974646e565e8d" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" />Giphy<p>The correlations that existed between married and single women's rating on the attractiveness of beards were not particularly clear, although the researchers noted that single and married women who wanted children tended to find beards more attractive than the women who didn't want children. They also found that women with bearded husbands found beards to be more attractive, which might indicate that social exposure to beards influences how desirable they are perceived of as being. Or it could be that men with wives who like beards grow beards.</p><p>It's important to note that culture plays a huge role in how attractive women perceive certain male characteristics as being. This study looked at a small, culturally specific group of American women, so no big, universal claims should be made about masculinity, facial hair, and male desirability to women. However, research like this is important in highlighting how human grooming decisions are driven by much more than fashion trends. Sociobiological, economic, and ecological factors all play a part in the way we choose to present ourselves.</p>
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