A peer-reviewed analysis published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences classified this age as one of “biological annihilation” — one that has prompted the planet’s sixth mass extinction event. Scientists behind the study threaten that should no policies be made to address this issue now, we may soon be facing catastrophic biodiversity changes. Eschewing the typical sober and detached tone most scientific papers relish, the authors say that this biological annihilation is indicative of a “frightening assault on the foundations of human civilization,” as mentioned on TheGuardian.com.
Co-author, Professor Gerardo Ceballos said, “the situation has become so bad it would not be ethical not to use strong language.”
Strong, indeed. Ceballos, along with Professors Paul Ehrlich and Rodolfo Dirzo, says this worldwide decimation of the animal and plant population underlines the “seriousness for humanity of Earth’s ongoing sixth mass extinction event.” The team of three drew this conclusion after observing the rate in which animal and plant species have been dwindling for millennia. Previous research had already indicated a significantly faster rate of extinction, but always ended with implication of a gradual loss of biodiversity. Professor Ceballos expanded this assumption to include “common” species that were not known to be at risk along with determining the range in which these species were kept.
The scientists found that almost a third of thousands of animal species are losing population — though not enough to be classified as “endangered.” Moreover, around half of all individual animals have died out in only a few decades. Land mammals, it was further noted, had lost 80 percent of their range in the last century alone. This meant, according to their calculations, that billions of population of birds, reptiles, amphibians, and mammals could be at risk of extinction in only two decades.
Likening the effect to a domino cascade, the scientists warn that the prospects for us and our survival do not look good. There remains time, they say, to halt the decline, but far too much damage to the environment has already been done. They attribute this annihilation to habitat destruction, toxic pollution, over-hunting, and most especially, over-consumption. Professor Elrich, who authored a controversial book in 1968 called, “The Population Bomb,” argued that maintaining a livable climate in which humans and nature coexist respectfully and comfortably will require great amounts of vigilance, diligence, and stricter diversity protection laws. He went on to say that current environmental practices are mere “band-aid” solutions to a bigger issue. (Related: ‘Mass extinction event’ across planet may have been unleashed by humans, scientists warn.)
Other scientists though temper the study’s conclusions. Professor Stuart Primm who was not involved in the research agreed with the findings but said that the idea of a sixth mass extinction event is not likely. “It is something that hasn’t happened yet — we are on the edge of it,” he said. Professor Primm said that the study highlights, in broad strokes, everything negative about biodiversity loss but does not acknowledge practices being made now to protect animal and plant life.
Robin Freeman, who helped publish an earlier paper which concluded 50 percent of individual animals have been lost since 1970, agreed that people should be made more aware of the loss of numerous animal species, but says that there is a fine but distinct line in which these facts should be given to people.
Regardless of where you stand on the issue, it cannot be denied that our planet has changed in a relatively short period of time.
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