Tag Archives: the sixth great extinction

Enviro Blog Post 1: THE SIXTH GREAT EXTINCTION or the cumulative effect of humans taking up more and more of the Earth’s bio-capacity and probably ruining everything

24 Apr

As someone who usually tunes in to Wildlife Conversation networks, I knew that we had been losing more and more species, just recently the Western black rhinoceros was officially declared extinct. It breaks my heart every time it happens. Therefore, getting to see the facts and statistics behind the sixth great extinction in class was not just appalling, it was frightening. Frightening because we, humans, have been taking up more and more of the Earth’s bio-capacity leaving less and less for other species, we, humans, have the kind of power for our actions to become the main driver of global environmental change- we have literally created a new geological epoch- and yet, frighteningly enough, this power is just being invested in destruction.

The sixth great extinction is happening now. The WWF reports show that the Earth has lost half its wildlife in the last 40 years. This alarming rate can be put further into perspective when compared to the great extinction of the dinosaurs, which it exceeds. In class, we have read and assessed the “Living Planet Report”. This compilation of the biodiversity of the planet, which is assembled by the WWF every two years, comprises the evaluation of over 10,000 populations of mammals, birds, reptiles, amphibians and fish. Analyzing this index has showed that the total populations has dropped by 52% since 1970. In more details, it shows a percentage loss of 39% in terrestrial animals, 76% loss in freshwater animals, and 39% in marine animals between 1970 and 2010.

I am outraged. In a world that dreams of reviving dinosaurs, the focus should be on saving what we still have now. 41,415 species are on the IUCN Red List of endangered animals. Adopting a panda or a tiger is a noble initiative but to make a significant, and this time positive, change what needs to be done is a switch in lifestyle and mind-set. Our current mind-set rejects a change in lifestyle. We have adapted to this life of comfort and abundance. We have locked ourselves in this bubble where everything but us and our comfort can be sacrificed or modified to fit the demands of our lifestyle.

Our actions, the so called “progress” of the human race, has lead to the loss of biocapacity and carrying capacity of the Earth: fisheries are collapsing, natural habitats are being converted to urban and agricultural areas and fresh water supplies are being contaminated. We are driving thousands of species to extinction. We are disturbing ecosystems. The reason? It appears to me to be some underlying selfish motive: indifference for species who do not directly sustain our progress.

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Progress. Population growth. Production growth. Economic growth. All priorities in our society, priorities that are the major drivers of the environmental crisis. The rate of the environmental degradation puts life on Earth at risk, and not just for whales, pandas, salmon or monarch butterflies, for us humans too. The Earth is moving to a warmer state, a state where large mammals like humans cannot survive. Maybe we assumed that a few species lost was worth the rise of the superior human race, maybe our world leaders calculated that our economy deserved the sacrifice. However all our lifestyle has really done is doomed ourselves. A series of conservation short films, called “Nature is Speaking,” that I have watched recently has confirmed this theory. As Julia Roberts, who voices Nature in one of the films said as she addressed humans, “I Don’t Really Need People. I’ve been here for eons. I’ve fed species greater than you. And I’ve starved greater species than you. My oceans, my soil, my flowing streams, my forests: They all can take you—or leave you… Your actions will determine your fate. Not mine. I am Nature. I will go on. I am prepared to evolve. Are you?”

The answer is no, humans cannot evolve in time to survive in the unsustainable future we are building but the Earth has adapted to greater catastrophes before and it will adapt again, without us. It is time we understand that we are responsible for our impending doom. We have to understand that planet Earth does not need saving, we do. Similarly to the Marvel Cinematic Universe, on planet Earth, everything that lives or that lived is connected. Unsettling a seemingly unimportant part of this ecosystem brings about a domino effect that will end up hitting us hard. It is essential to our survival that we play a bigger part in conservation and sustainable development, we cannot go on living our lives as the parasites of planet Earth. No, that was not a mistake and I honestly don’t think it is an exaggeration: humans are parasites to the Earth. We exploit everything the Earth has to offer and give nothing in return, we multiply our ranks at the expense of other species who never wronged us. We are ruthless and abusive. If the Earth was one big apartment and all the different species were roommates, the human race would be that domineering and extremely messy roommate who always eats all the breakfast cereals, drinks all the milk and uses all the shampoo and never replaces anything. Nobody wants that kind of roommate, then why are we forcing this behavior upon our fellow Earthlings?

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We are terrified of sharks, of pitbulls and even of vampires and zombies but the real monsters are all human. I said earlier that we needed saving but sometimes when I think of what we have been doing to Nature, I wonder if we deserve to be saved. Okay, that may be a little harsh. Granted, a lot of the damage done has been caused by big industries, corporations and governments and not by regular individuals but really, we all implemented this system. There is no nice way of saying this: humans are the only animals on this planet who found a way to work against nature and mess up with the circle of life. Simba would not be proud. 

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