The remains of a rainforest in Aceh, devoured by a fire set to clear land for a palm oil plantation, Aceh, Sumatra


© Gethin Chamberlain / Eyevine

Our lives are often marked by small gestures that are repeated, time after time, day after day and year after year. Similarly, the same rhythms mark other everyday events that are sometimes so far removed that we practically forget about them. Every second, entire swathes of forest are being razed to create new space for farming or ranching. Unique and wonderfully unrepeatable plants and animals live in these still wild portions of our planet: living beings that have been shaped by evolution over millions of generations, perfectly embedded in an ecosystem network that has formed around them. We still don’t know how many of them exist; indeed, it is estimated that we are currently aware of just one-tenth of the world’s existing species. And as time goes by, many of these disappear forever, along with their habitat, from the history of life. According to estimates, a species becomes extinct every hour, so at this pace, the day will come when all existing living forms will have been discovered, since those remaining to be discovered will have already died out. One of the saddest things we can leave our descendants is deprivation of the pleasure of discovery, the awareness that all that the Earth has to offer is what they see and that millions of organisms unique in the entire cosmos, and so close to us, will never be observed by the human eye. But the fact that these extinctions are caused by humans could also be good news. Because, if they depend on our actions, we can remedy them, slow down time, at least for once, and halt the unstoppable decline of life on Earth.

Matteo Schiavinato