Earth has seen five mass extinction events so far. What is more concerning is that according to an international team of biologists, we are currently in the midst of a sixth mass extinction, and humans may be one of the first species to die off.
As a natural part of life, extinction is the gradual or the abrupt ceasing of a species existence. While individual extinction is part of a natural counterweight to the evolution of animals and plants, mass extinction has a global impact and does not usually occur without external influence.
These events are not necessarily a bad thing. For example, dinosaurs appeared after one of the biggest mass extinction events on Earth, about 250 million years ago. However, about 65 million years ago, another mass extinction, likely caused by an enormous asteroid killed off the dinosaurs and made room for mammals to rapidly diversify and evolve.
We regularly hear of apocalyptic events and doomsday dates, but rarely are these predictions supported by scientific research. Using fossil records, the team compared natural extinction rates, which are also known as background extinction rates, to current extinction rates, and have arrived at a frightening conclusion with disturbing figures.
Results showed that even with conservative estimates of current extinction rates, species today are disappearing up to 100 times faster than the normal rate between mass extinction events. Dr Paul Ehrlich stated: “We emphasize that our calculations very likely underestimate the severity of the extinction crisis, because our aim was to place a realistic lower bound on humanity’s impact on biodiversity.” The researchers also said that the study showed without significant doubt that we are now entering the sixth great mass extinction event. The team found that deforestation for farming and settlement, the introduction of invasive species, carbon emissions, and our introducing toxins to the environment are permanently and irreversibly destroying our planet’s very delicate ecosystems.
To illustrate the impact of human presence, the earth’s 4.6billion years in existence can be scaled to 46 years. With the new scale, humans have been here for just 4 hours, our industrial revolution began one minute ago and in that time, we have destroyed almost 50% of the planet’s rainforests. This is simply unsustainable and this recent study is another red flag.
Despite the recent news, it may still be a little early to start building a doomsday bunker. Through intensified conservation efforts, we may still be able to preserve the Earth’s ecosystem. But the “window of opportunity is rapidly closing,” the researchers said. As a world of various countries and cultures, it appears the only way to prevent a species-wide suicide is to act now. For generations, the environment has suffered at the hands of mankind, and, as a result, it is believed our future generations will have a significant challenge on their hands.