NATIONAL SURVEY REVEALS BIODIVERSITY CRISIS - SCIENTIFIC EXPERTS BELIEVE WE ARE IN MIDST OF FASTEST MASS EXTINCTION IN EARTH'S HISTORY

Crisis Poses Major Threat to Human Survival; Public Unaware of Danger

WHAT:
The American Museum of Natural History and Louis Harris and Associates, Inc., in conjunction with the opening of the Museum's new Hall of Biodiversity, developed a nationwide survey titled Biodiversity in the Next Millennium. The survey reveals a startling gap in understanding between the scientific community and the general public concerning a current crisis in sustaining "biodiversity" - the variety and interdependence of the Earth's plants and animals.

HIGHLIGHTS:

  • Seven out of ten biologists believe that we are in the midst of a mass extinction of living things, and that this dramatic loss of species poses a major threat to human existence in the next century.

  • In strong contrast to the fears expressed by scientists, the general public is relatively unaware of the loss of species and the threats that it poses.

  • This mass extinction is the fastest in Earth's 4.5-billion-year history and, unlike prior extinctions, is mainly the result of human activity and not of natural phenomena.

  • Scientists rate biodiversity loss as a more serious environmental problem than the depletion of the ozone layer, global warming, or pollution and contamination.

  • Scientists overwhelmingly believe that we must act now to address the biodiversity crisis. The majority of scientists believe the crisis could be averted by a stronger stance by policymakers and governments and by individuals making changes in their daily lives.

  • Scientists believe some of the most important effects of this dramatic species loss are:
    Serious impairment of the environment's ability to recover from natural and human-induced disasters.

    Destruction of the natural systems that purify the world's air and water.

    Reduction of the potential for the discovery of new medicines.

    Increased flooding, drought, and other environmental disasters.

    Substantial contribution to the degradation of the world's economies, thereby weakening the social and political stability of nations across the globe.

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For more information, contact: American Museum of Natural History, Department of Communications, 212-769-5800.

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