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Leading conservationist, Jamie Rappaport Clark speaks about the dangerous levels of species extinction and deforestation

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KATHLEEN MAITLAND-CARTER: [inaudible 00:00:04] that they need to protect, and it takes all of us to protect it. JAMIE RAPPAPORT CLARK: [inaudible 00:00:12] to start with an understanding of how things actually are. KATHLEEN MAITLAND-CARTER: Then, can you talk about some of the roll-back on regulations and how it’s going to impact wildlife in the United States? JAMIE RAPPAPORT CLARK: Rolling back the regulations and the laws – like the Endangered Species Act, the Clean Water Act, the National Environmental Policy Act – will unravel what this country has been built on, because it’s the back-stop. It’s the back-stop to prevent extinction. Without the Clean Water Act we won’t have clean water. Without the Endangered Species Act we will be documenting extinction in this country. These laws were put there because so goes nature, so goes us. So there’s an absolute direct connection between the bedrock environmental laws of our country and the importance of our own survival. KATHLEEN MAITLAND-CARTER: Also, in terms of the Bureau of Land Management lifting the moratorium on coal-mining and the other [inaudible 00:01:24], can you talk about the legacy and importance of these nature places for … ? JAMIE RAPPAPORT CLARK: Right. Well, the National Parks and National Wildlife Refuges, the National Forest, are all lands that are important to us as Americans. They are places we recreate. They are open spaces for wildlife. They are the head waters of our rovers and where our clean water comes from, but they’re safe havens for wildlife. Without these special public lands, owned by all of us as Americans, we will doom ourselves to concrete, to watching our resources evaporate, and the importance of land … I mean, it hardly matters what you do for wildlife if you don’t take care of the habitat. But we as humans depend on open space and clean air, and these lands give us all of that and more. KATHLEEN MAITLAND-CARTER: They’re even saying there’s an impact on, not just physical health, but mental health and climate change, and maybe this loss of nature [crosstalk 00:02:32]. JAMIE RAPPAPORT CLARK: Absolutely, mental health. People, particularly those of us that live in cities, need these places to get away, to kind of rekindle, to energize and to have a sense of rebirth or re-energizing. These lands are so important to all of us as Americans to recreate and rekindle our energy. But when it comes to climate change, these National Forests, these refuges are absolutely important to managing the increasing temperatures and the increasing greenhouse gas emissions. If we keep cutting down all the trees or plowing up all the ground, we are going to exacerbate the already very scary impacts of climate change. KATHLEEN MAITLAND-CARTER: Where are we at, in terms of a stock-taking of species loss in the US, and maybe globally? Also, deforestation, and I guess there’s the oceans, but just in terms of species loss, extinction rates – where would you say we’re at, if you could give an equation? JAMIE RAPPAPORT CLARK: When it comes to species extinction, we are at a very dangerous moment in history. We’re in the middle of the sixth mass extinction, which is absolutely human-caused. We do go through waves of extinction in geologic times, but this one is far more severe, far more rapid and far deeper than anything ever recorded in history. KATHLEEN MAITLAND-CARTER: In terms of deforestation, where are we at? JAMIE RAPPAPORT-CLARK: Deforestation? We are losing football fields every few minutes. Whether it’s in the Amazon, whether it’s in the New England area of the Untied States. We are turning our forests into flat-lands. These are finite resources. They do renew themselves, but it takes time and we are chopping down our forests far faster than they can renew themselves. Very dangerous. KATHLEEN MAITLAND-CARTER: Then back to today and science, what does it mean to, again, roll back regulations and disregard what scientists are saying? I’m trying to find a question here … JAMIE RAPPAPORT CLARK: Well, it’s comprehensible. It’s disrespectful, it’s selfish, it is denying the truth. And by denying the truth or pretending like science doesn’t matter or ignoring unequivocal science truth – whether it’s climate or species extinction – it is turning your back on all of us as humans, because so goes nature, so goes us. If we don’t accept and we don’t listen to what science is telling us, we are only going to suffer the consequences ourselves.

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