Life in the 6th Mass Extinction

March 1, 2018

When a disconcertingly vast amount of species turn extinct within a relatively short period of geological time, thought to be due to factors such as a catastrophic global event or widespread environmental change that occurs too rapidly for most species to adapt, we call this a period of “mass extinction”.¹ Earth, often referred to as the planet on which “we” (Homo sapiens) reside despite our mere historical existence on it, has till date endured five periods of mass extinction throughout its 4.5 billion year lifespan. The fifth and most recent mass extinction occurred over 65 million years ago, when a disastrous combination of immense proportion combining fatal volcanic activity, extreme climate change and a catastrophic collision between an asteroid and earth wiped away 76% of all life on earth.² What’s causing the sixth?
Us.

According to the concurring notions of scientists, biologists and geologists, we now reside on the brink of the sixth mass extinction. Earth is in its early stages of a new mass extinction as a result of human behaviour – habitat destruction and global climate disruption. Research led by biologist Stuart Pimm at Duke University has been able to put an unsettling number on the rate of extinction of species on Earth. Pimm’s study suggests that, without the existence of humans on the planet, on average a mere one type of species went extinct per 10 million years. With our existence on this planet however, this number has soared to 1000 species. Humans are killing species faster than they are created.³ One of the most demoralising and concrete acts of habitat destruction causing severe and immediate defaunation, is the utter annihilation of one of the most lively and biodiverse environments, Earth’s forests.

The insaturable need for clear-cutting for subsistence farming and commercial farming, unsustainable logging for timber, expansion for urbanisation and fuel wood removal is creating the Holocene Extinction. With one and a half acres of forest being cut down every second, the entire rainforest will have disappeared within approximately 100 years. The forests that face 49 tons of steel bulldozer have no chance of a fair fight, which is why I’m interested in ‘taking care’ of Earth’s (de)forested site.

Annika

text & illustration

¹ Dictionary, “Mass Extinction”, accessed on 28th February 2018;
http://www.dictionary.com/browse/mass-extinction

² The Big Five Mass Extinctions, by Viviane Richter, accessed on 28th February 2018;
https://cosmosmagazine.com/palaeontology/big-five-extinctions

³ Extinction Rates Soar to 1,000 Times Normal, (2014) by Stephanie Pappas, accessed on 28th February 2018;
https://www.livescience.com/45964-extinction-rates-1000-times-normal.html

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