Skip to main content

Sign up for our newsletter.

Quality journalism. Progressive values. Direct to your inbox.

There are less than 72 hours left in this Mid-Year Campaign and our independent journalism needs your help today.
If you value our work, please support Common Dreams. This is our hour of need.

Join the small group of generous readers who donate, keeping Common Dreams free for millions of people each year. Without your help, we won’t survive.

Africocypha blue dragonfly photo by André Günther

An Africocypha varicolor blue, categorized as endangered on the 'Red List.' (Photo: André Günther)

Updated Extinction Assessment Drives Fresh Call to 'Save Life on Earth'

"Every new look at extinction shows that we're running out of time to save wildlife and ultimately ourselves."

Andrea Germanos

The Biden administration was told Thursday it must act urgently to address the biodiversity and climate crises following the release of an updated global assessment that showed the number of species at risk of extinction now tops 40,000.

"The Biden administration has to muster the political will to move away from dirty fossil fuels, change the toxic ways we produce food, curtail the wildlife trade, and halt ongoing loss of habitat."

"Every new look at extinction shows that we're running out of time to save wildlife and ultimately ourselves," said Tierra Curry, a senior scientist at the Center for Biological Diversity.

The update of the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species documents a decline in Earth's dragonflies and damselflies, finding 16% out of over 6,000 species are at risk of extinction amid a deterioration of their freshwater breeding grounds in Asia, the Americas, and Europe. The report says the losses are driven by numerous factors including the climate crisis and land clearance for construction and agricultural crops like palm oil.

Out of the 142,577 species evaluated in 2021 by the IUCN, the analysis found an estimated 28% are threatened with extinction.

As Dr. Ian Burfield, a global science coordinator for BirdLife International, noted in a statement, "The plight of dragonflies is indicative of a wider crisis threatening many wetland species," including major declines in wetland birds over recent years.

Curry similarly called dragonflies "not only gorgeous" but "indicator species that tell us a lot about the health of rivers and wetlands. The serious threats they face are a huge red flag that we have to do better."

"The ongoing damming of rivers and loss of wetlands," she said, "wipes out wildlife and harms humans with increased risks of flooding and diseases."

The plummeting numbers of dragonflies and damselflies is perhaps unsurprising in light of the vast scope of wetland destruction. Despite their crucial role the water cycle and biodiversity, approximately 85% of the world's wetlands have been lost over the past 300 hundred years. That same percentage of loss is true for the U.S. and Canada, though the rate of loss appears to be on the decline.

"The loss of these critical habitats," Dr. Thomas E. Lacher, Jr., Professor Emeritus at Texas A&M University, said of wetlands, "will have severe impacts on amphibians and migratory birds globally," noting their "exceptional levels of biodiversity in an extremely small land area."

With the new 'Red List' data—and in light of ongoing threats including the climate crisis and toxic pesticides driving an "insect apocalypse"—Curry said President Joe Biden must urgently set the U.S. on a new course in terms of energy production and environmental protection.

"The Biden administration has to muster the political will to move away from dirty fossil fuels, change the toxic ways we produce food, curtail the wildlife trade, and halt ongoing loss of habitat," she said. "We actually can do these things."

"We can and must save life on Earth," Curry added. "In the face of the federal failure to act while the planet melts down around us, individuals, cities, and states have to protect wildlife and fight climate change."

Our work is licensed under Creative Commons (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0). Feel free to republish and share widely.

Just a few days left in our crucial Mid-Year Campaign and we might not make it without your help.
Who funds our independent journalism? Readers like you who believe in our mission: To inform. To inspire. To ignite change for the common good. No corporate advertisers. No billionaire founder. Our non-partisan, nonprofit media model has only one source of revenue: The people who read and value this work and our mission. That's it.
And the model is simple: If everyone just gives whatever amount they can afford and think is reasonable—$3, $9, $29, or more—we can continue. If not enough do, we go dark.

All the small gifts add up to something otherwise impossible. Please join us today. Donate to Common Dreams. This is crunch time. We need you now.

Markey, Bowman Join Climate Coalition in Urging SCOTUS Expansion

"We cannot sit idly by," said Markey, "as extremists on the Supreme Court eviscerate the authorities that the government has had for decades to combat climate change and reduce pollution."

Brett Wilkins ·

Ocasio-Cortez Says US 'Witnessing a Judicial Coup in Process'

"It is our duty to check the Court's gross overreach of power in violating people's inalienable rights and seizing for itself the powers of Congress and the president."

Brett Wilkins ·

Critics Say Biden Drilling Bonanza 'Won't Lower Gas Prices' But 'Will Worsen Climate Crisis'

"President Biden's massive public lands giveaway in the face of utter climate catastrophe is just the latest sign that his climate commitments are mere rhetoric," said one campaigner.

Kenny Stancil ·

Grave Warnings as Supreme Court Agrees to Hear Case That Threatens 'Future of Voting Rights'

"Buckle up," implores one prominent legal scholar. "An extreme decision here could fundamentally alter the balance of power in setting election rules in the states and provide a path for great threats to elections."

Brett Wilkins ·

Biden Urged to Take Emergency Action After 'Disastrous' Climate Ruling by Supreme Court

"The catastrophic impact of this decision cannot be understated," said Rep. Pramila Jayapal, but "we cannot accept defeat."

Kenny Stancil ·

Common Dreams Logo