Emmy award winning television host, author biologist, and conservationist Jeff Corwin came to Elmhurst College for his lecture, April 14 in the Hammerschmidt Chapel, on his conservation efforts — touching on topics from the cause of extinctions in many species to the philosophy that led him to travel the world and encounter all different kinds of exotic animals first hand.
He focused on the factors that contribute to the extinction of many species which deals with human interference with the environment.
“We are the genesis of this extinction event. Unlike something like malaria which can cause extinction. Malaria doesn’t know what it is. We know what we do. Yet we aren’t willing to make the radical changes necessary to prevent the loss of our planet’s life.”
He explained the alarming rates at which species are going extinct as well the main factors that contribute to such a loss of life.
“We lose one species every 20 minutes to a half and hour. And it’s a great loss for our planet, we all pay the price for that,” Corwin explained. “What are the major components of extinction? First, would be habitat loss [and] second, climate change. Another is species exploitation. The fourth is environmental degradation and the fifth is human population growth.”
He likened the many contributing factors of extinction to a perfect storm and explained how these separate factors combine with each other to cause the loss of wildlife. Corwin also began his discussion on a very personal note, talking about the very moment when he knew the path his life would take.
“I looked at this stack of wood and I see something on top perfectly coiled like I’d never seen before, and I started to shake. It still happens to me whenever I see a snake. I was so excited I couldn’t even yell,” he said. “I looked at it and it looked at me, and instinctively I just reached out and grabbed onto it. And it instinctively reached back and grabbed onto me. So they pried the snake off my arm and my dad took it back out to the backyard. It was amazing. The moment I found that snake I knew that for the rest of my life I would be a naturalist.”
Some students who were in attendance at the lecture gave their thoughts on the state of wildlife in the world today and what should be done about the loss of so many species. Freshman Taylor Hannah spoke about her own impressions of Jeff Corwin as a speaker and gave her view on the issue of mass species loss.
“I’m optimistic, so I do believe that whichever animals that we’ve brought to brink of extinction we can bring back. Look at the situation with the bald eagle where it was on the brink of extinction, but now there’s more of them,” she said. “I feel like [Corwin] can give people hope with his speeches because a lot of people don’t know about this. Nobody is really educated on how many animals are dying.”
Taylor cited many laws that should be implemented as a possible remedy to the problem.
“We definitely need to have more laws. A lot of these people poach animals like elephants and tigers because there’s nobody out there taking these people to jail for doing it. And then some people do it just for sport, like we’ve been seeing on TV,” she said. “We just need more laws for animals. We have rights so they should too. ”
In his closing moments, Jeff Corwin echoed a similar message of optimism about the future of the planet if the proper steps are taken for conservation.
“There is hope, we can salvage things, we can make the changes we need because we know better. And more than just knowing better, ultimately if we don’t wise up and start behaving better with our planet, it’s not only us that will pay the price, it’s going be our children that are going pay the price,” said Corwin. “And I think that’s the ultimate sin because in the end this world we have today, we didn’t inherit it from our ancestors. We borrowed it from our children. ”