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Old 11-07-2017, 08:42 PM
Roxetten Roxetten is offline
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Join Date: Jan 2014
Posts: 18,560
Default Earth is in middle of sixth mass extinction.

I saw this reported in the Guardian today and I see the Irish Times has an article on it aswell but of course it has barely caused a ripple as more pressing matters such as the state of Beyonce's marriage are deemed to be of more importance,

Earth already in middle of sixth mass extinction.

Researchers predict ‘biological annihilation’ as billions of populations of animals lost in recent decades.


Humans and wildlife species face a future of rapid decline — including the heightened possibility of mass extinction — if measures are not taken within the next 20 years to arrest “powerful assaults on biodiversity”, scientists have warned.

Human overpopulation and over-consumption by the wealthiest in society are driving factors behind the destruction of species on planet Earth, which is having a negative impact on ecosystems, according to researchers in the US and Mexico.

Their warning, published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS) journal in the US, states the hidden rate of species population decreases mean the “Earth’s sixth mass extinction episode has proceeded further than most assume”.

The report, compiled by scientists at Stanford and Mexico City universities, found the current rate of vertebrate extinction during the past century was two species a year — this was compared with two species every 100 years over the last two million years.

The estimates were likely to be “conservative”, they warn, with several species of mammal now endangered despite being at “relatively safe” levels at the turn of the millennium. “As much as 50 per cent of the number of animal individuals that once shared Earth with us are already gone, as are billions of populations,” it notes.

“We emphasise that the sixth mass extinction is already here and the window for effective action is very short, probably two or three decades at most. All signs point to ever more powerful assaults on biodiversity in the next two decades, painting a dismal picture of the future of life, including human life.”

The scientists say the loss of animals from the planet would “promote cascading catastrophic effects on ecosystems”, including plants and other wildlife.

Their report adds: “The resulting biological annihilation obviously will also have serious ecological, economic, and social consequences. Humanity will eventually pay a very high price for the decimation of the only assemblage of life that we know of in the universe.”

Wildlife is dying out due to habitat destruction, overhunting, toxic pollution, invasion by alien species and climate change. But the ultimate cause of all of these factors is “human overpopulation and continued population growth, and overconsumption, especially by the rich”, say the scientists, who include Prof Paul Ehrlich at Stanford, whose 1968 book The Population Bomb is a seminal, if controversial, work.

Prof Stuart Pimm of Duke University in the US, was not involved in the new work, but said the overall conclusion is correct. However, he disagrees that a sixth mass extinction is already under way: “It is something that hasn’t happened yet – we are on the edge of it.”

The PNAS study eschews the normally sober tone of scientific papers and classifies the massive loss of wildlife as a “frightening assault on the foundations of human civilisation”. Prof Gerardo Ceballos at the Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México, who led the work, told the Guardian: “The situation has become so bad it would not be ethical not to use strong language.”

Oonagh Duggan, assistant head of policy and advocacy at BirdWatch Ireland said her organisation shares the concerns of the report’s authors “on the lack of political impetus and willingness to accept that biodiversity globally and nationally is under severe threat”.

She added: “Birds are indicators of the health of our environment. The Corn Bunting, a bird of tillage farms, went extinct in Ireland during the 90s. Our population of corncrake was once widespread and is now reduced to small pockets of the west and north west. Other birds of our farmlands, like the Curlew and Hen Harrier, are under severe threat due to loss of habitat.”

The PNAS report is based on analysis of 27,600 mammals, reptiles and amphibians, and cites double-digit decreases in the populations of species such as African lion, which has seen a 43 per cent drop since 1993.

The researchers do not state how long it predicts the human race will survive, but add there is scope to address the decay of biodiversity. “The strong focus among scientists on species extinctions, however, conveys a common impression that Earth’s biota (animal and plant life) is not dramatically threatened, or is just slowly entering an episode of major biodiversity loss that need not generate deep concern now,” their report states.

“Thus, there might be sufficient time to address the decay of biodiversity later, or to develop technologies for ‘de-extinction’,” it adds.



You don’t need a scientist to know what’s causing the sixth mass extinction
- Paul R Ehrlich

It’s simple. It’s us. The more people there are, the more habitats we destroy. Human civilisation can only survive if the population begins to shrink

• Paul R Ehrlich is a professor of population studies at Stanford University and the author of The Population Bomb (196


One should not need to be a scientist to know that human population growth and the accompanying increase in human consumption are the root cause of the sixth mass extinction we’re currently seeing. All you need to know is that every living being has evolved to have a set of habitat requirements.

The human population has grown so large that roughly 40% of the Earth’s land surface is now farmed to feed people – and none too well at that. Largely due to persistent problems with distribution, almost 800 million people go to bed hungry, and between one and two billion suffer from malnutrition. As a consequence of its booming population, Homo sapiens has taken much of the most fertile land to grow plants for its own consumption. But guess what? That cropland is generally not rich in food plants suitable for the caterpillars of the 15,000 butterfly species with which we share the planet. Few butterflies require the wheat, corn or rice on which humans largely depend. From the viewpoint of most of the Earth’s wildlife, farming can be viewed as “habitat destruction”. And, unsurprisingly, few species of wildlife have evolved to live on highways, or in strip malls, office buildings, kitchens or sewers – unless you count Norway rats, house mice, European starlings and German roaches. Virtually everything humanity constructs provides an example of habitat destruction.

The more people there are, the more products of nature they demand to meet their needs and wants: timber, seafood, meat, gas, oil, metal ores, rare earths and rare animals to eat or to use for medicinal purposes. Human demands cause both habitat destruction and outright extermination of wildlife. So when you watch the expansion of the human enterprise; when you see buildings springing up; when you settle down to dinner at home or in a restaurant; you are observing (and often participating in) the sixth mass extinction.

The expanding human population not only outright destroys habitats, it also alters them to the detriment of wildlife (and often people themselves). The more people there are, the more greenhouse gases flow into the atmosphere, and the greater the impacts on wildlife that require specific temperature ranges.

And the more people there are, the more cities, roads, farm fields, fences and other barriers preventing wildlife from moving to areas of more favourable temperature or humidity in a rapidly changing climate. Less recognised, but perhaps even more dangerous to both people and wildlife, is the increasing toxification of the entire planet with synthetic chemicals. Growing populations want myriad more items of plastic that often leak toxic chemicals: more cosmetics, cleansing compounds, pesticides, herbicides, preservatives and industrial chemicals. Many of these novel chemicals mimic natural hormones, and in tiny quantities can alter the development of animals or human children, with potentially catastrophic consequences. As with climate disruption, this is one more case of human overpopulation threatening civilisation.

So we don’t really need the evidence meticulously gathered and analysed by the scientific community showing the unusual and accelerating extermination of wildlife populations – and ultimately, species – to know that human population growth is a major and growing driver of the sixth mass extinction, just as it is with the related accelerating climate disruption. It will take a long time to humanely stop that growth and start the gradual shrinkage of the human population that is required if civilisation is to persist. All the more reason we should have started a half century ago, when the problem first came to public attention.
An activist can never really take a break. Trust me, I’ve tried.
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