Posted by Environmentalism 101| 18 Aug 2015 |
Life on Earth is experiencing the Holocene Extinction or more popularly termed The Sixth Extinction. The Sixth Extinction, a preferred label, as it clarifies that this is not the first extinction, rather it is the 6th recorded period of history where many species are disappearing since the beginning of known life, some 3.6 billion years ago
Through observing fossilised records, we are able to note specific points in history where there have been mass die-offs of many species, simultaneously within a specific given time frame. Whilst extinction does have a natural rate, meaning that extinction is inevitable as life progresses and becomes more diversified and specialized, the five previous extinctions illustrate that at several given points in time the natural extinction rate escalated rapidly and as a result the diversity and number of living organism were dramatically reduced.
The 5th and most popular of the extinctions, being that of the dinosaurs, taking place some 65 million years ago. The understanding is that this was due to a large asteroid, Chixiclub, striking what is now known as Mexico, which caused a chain reaction of environmental catastrophes with fatal consequences for many species alive during that period.
The highest fatalities and most destructive of all extinctions was the 3rd End-Permian or ‘Great-Dying’ extinction, occurring 250 million years ago, wiping out an estimated 90% of all marine and terrestrial life. The assumed causes were an asteroid impact, a super volcano, abrupt climate change or a combination of all these cataclysmic events.
Irrespective of the accuracy in assuming the actual causes for the previous extinctions, it is unanimously agreed that all five extinctions were far beyond the control, cause and impact of any single biological species.
Current models estimate that an average of 35 species go extinct per day and by the turn of the 21st century, an estimated 50% loss of all species is expected. A tragic prediction if it is reached. The current extinction is Earths first species-induced mass extinction, that species being humans, a shocking testament to our power and impact on this planet.
Human existence is only possible due to the ecosystem services provided by other species. These ecosystem services provide our food, the air that we breathe, cleanse the water we drink and maintain a stable climate for us to live. By killing individual organisms, their death ripples through as entire species are exterminated, destroying the complex biodiverse relationships that provide the essential services that nurture our own existence.
We benefit from the co-operation of other species, regardless of our input, or lack thereof. Despite the significance and importance of these essential ecosystem services that ensure our survival, do not be mistaken to assume that the sole purpose of other organisms is to sustain our existence, rather it is a necessary reminder to acknowledge that we owe our existence to other species, the very same species we are driving to extinction.
We have forgotten that we are also animals; dependant on similar essential services and bound by the same requirements of food, water, air and a stabilised climate. It is our disconnection from other species that has caused us to believe we are capable of existing independently as a single species and is most damming to note how little we care for other Life on Planet Earth.
Besides the saddening loss of many other species caused by human impact, human-induced extinction presents a secondary concern based on the fact that the compounding affects of exterminating other species will eventually hamper our own survival. What we can eventually expect is that we will undoubtedly also face a major loss amoung our own species, perhaps the deserved retribution for our negligent and destructive ways.
Human-induced extinction serves two noteworthy points. Firstly it is an indisputable global issue, providing a unanimous agreement that current human activity is destructive and poses a serious threat to existing species and to our own. Our destructive impact is not debatable; we are a force of destruction comparable to that of asteroid impacts, super volcanoes and major climate shifts. Secondly, the lack of concern of human-induced extinction illustrates our total and utter negligence towards all other life. We show no concern, simply because we don’t care about the existence or nonexistence of any other species on Earth, besides our own. We are truly a selfish and self-focused species.
Human-induced extinction is the Earth’s emergency warning light, flashing frantically, notifying humankind that our impact has surpassed the tipping point. We have run out of excuses to dismiss our destructive impact, as we continue to wipe the existence of many species that have equal heritage to Planet Earth. A global redirection is needed, with necessary change instilled in order for a grand restoration to this once pristine, beautiful and wondrous nature-filled Earth.