Welcome back! Last week’s update was about the death of individuals. This week let’s take it one step further. Let’s have a look at the death of entire species. A rather sad update, again – I promise next week is going to be more cheerful! But there are some things that just need to be told. Unfortunately, not many people know what I am about to tell you. So please read carefully and help me spread the word.
Species going extinct is a natural process. However, the current rate of extinction is anything but natural. Do you dare to make a guess?
How high is the rate of extinction today compared to the normal extinction rate? Would it be double the natural extinction rate? Triple? Or even higher?
Continue when you have a figure in mind.
If you know YWU a bit, you may have noticed that I tried to anchor you with this question and you may therefore have guessed correctly. The correct answer is indeed (a lot) higher than triple the normal extinction rate.
In fact, the current extinction rate is 100 times as high as it used to be. And that’s still a conservative guess, experts say it is somewhere between 100 and 1.000 times higher. Very well done if you said something in this range!
We are experiencing the sixth mass extinction. Right now.
Unlike other mass extinctions, this one is caused by one species: Homo Sapiens.
Luckily, this time it’s not due to asteroid impacts, but just to our behaviour, which means we can still fix it before it goes terribly wrong. You wouldn’t want to be part of the generation known for wiping out the Earth’s astounding biodiversity, would you? So let’s fix this together.
Tell me more!
First, let’s take a look at the five earlier mass extinctions.
- Newly formed volcanic rock absorbed CO2. Temperatures dropped. Water froze. Species died.
- Algae’s took all the oxygen. Most sea creatures died. Amphibians and reptiles lived.
- Volcanic activity destroyed the ozone layer. Average water temperature reached 40 degrees Celsius. Fish were cooked, land animals roasted.
- Lots of geological violence. America split off from Europe, forming the Atlantic Ocean.
- Asteroid hit Mexico. Dust blocked out sunlight. Temperatures dropped resulting in ice age. Dinosaurs and other species became extinct.
This time, however, we are to blame.
We overfish our oceans. We hunt our land animals. We destroy entire habitats by cutting down forests for growing crops to feed our livestock. We pollute water, land and air with our industries. Our greenhouse gas emissions disrupt the climate system which messes up entire ecosystems at a rate that is too fast for evolution to adapt to.
Since we are on top of the food pyramid, we rely on a vast diversity of organisms below us, more than we can possibly imagine. That means that in the end, mass extinction will threaten our existence as well.
I don’t want to end this update on such a negative note. And I don’t have to, since I know we are also the ones who are able to stop this madness.
After all, we are the most intelligent species that has ever lived on this planet.
We are capable of building unbelievably complex social structures that rely on trust and cooperation. We have built a central nervous system called the internet that gives people all across the globe access to our latest insights. Every day, we make tons of choices on how to spend our time and money, which will ultimately affect the chances of the survival of our species and many other species on this planet. So let’s start making the right decisions.
Our evolutionary ancestors have already survived 5 mass extinctions. Failing this time would be quite embarrassing.
To finish this update, listen to the audio fragment below. You hear a Kauai ‘O’o bird, calling for a mate. Since he was the last one of his kind, he never got a reply.
See you next week for some good news.