We would not be the least bit surprised to learn that a whole bunch of people – when hearing the news – didn’t just shrug their shoulders, figuring there wasn’t much they could do, and went ahead and ordered a thick and juicy bacon cheeseburger at the takeout window. Super-size that drink, while you’re at it, and stick a plastic straw in it.

We understand why. We have made ourselves creatures of comfort. It’s all so easy, so convenient. No fuss. No hassle. Why bother with putting dinner on a plate when a polystyrene foam carton is handy – especially in our disposable economy. We all want it our way – without sacrifice.

Well, according to a United Nations report issued last week, the end is drawing near for millions of species on planet Earth. For mankind? Nothing about the not-too-distant future will be as simple as picking up dinner at the drive-through.

The UN assessment is just the latest in a series of five-alarm fire reports that says the world’s environment is in speedy decline. In this particular study, the warning is clear. Unless governments hasten their efforts to protect what natural habitats are left, we could see the disappearance of 40 percent of amphibian species, one-third of marine mammals and one-third of reef-forming corals, according to a story in The New York Times. Further, the report said, more than 500,000 land species do not have enough natural habitat left to ensure their survival.

Yes, we know. Addressing a fragile balance in a threatened ecosystem is not the kind of news flash that folks pay much attention to. So what if there are fewer insects around than there were, say, a few decades ago.

Well, natural ecosystems, as is explained in the report, make our lives more manageable. Wetlands, for instance, purify our drinking water, and insects pollinate our fruits and vegetables. Human bad habits, like clearing rain forests, are making it difficult to develop robust crops to stand the crippling effects of increased heat and drought, which come part and parcel with global warming.

The findings get your attention: “As many as one million plant and animal species are now threatened with extinction because of farming, poaching, pollution, the transport of invasive species and, increasingly, global warming.”

Relax. You don’t have to become a vegan to reduce your climate footprint. Simply eating more greens and less meat, or even choosing chicken instead of beef, can make a difference.

Bottom line: If we are to approach net-zero carbon dioxide emissions anytime soon to soothe the hurt we are putting on our planet, we will need massive federal outlays in the trillions of dollars. But to save our planet, we will also need to change personal habits and that may be the tougher nut to crack. But that responsibility falls to each and every one of us.

Besides, salads are good for you. Red meat? Not on your life.

— The Register-Herald

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