The future of 75% of life on Earth will be decided within 15 years
A new study warns that the Earth is entering its sixth mass extinction event, and it is manmade. Within 15 years, the future of Earth’s biodiversity will be decided.
Well, this isn’t good.
According to new research published in Science Advances, the Earth is in the midst of entering a new mass extinction. This would be the sixth mass extinction event in the Earth’s history, and this one would be almost entirely humanity’s fault.
Over the last 100 years, the extinction rate for animals has been shocking. In that time, 396 species have completely gone extinct; without humans, that number would number would be nine. The extinction of nearly four hundred species should have taken 11,400 years, but we managed it in a century.
The types of species that have gone extinct range from vertebrates to fish to amphibians and everything in between. No animal family is safe, and when you expand the definition of “extinction” to include animals that only exist in captivity and those believed to be extinct without confirmation, the number jumps to a depressing 477. Over the last 500 years, 676 species in total have gone extinct.
That is very, very bad.
The previous extinction events were all due to natural disasters on a global scale, including meteors and a chain of volcanoes erupting in unison. This one though, is on us.
The warning was issued by a group led by Gerard Ceballos, a senior ecological researcher at the National Autonomous University, and Anthony Barnosky, a professor of Biology at the University of California. In their research, the chief causes of the recent animal extinctions include deforestation, poaching, overfishing, and global warming.
“People think nothing bad will come from species loss, because scientists can’t predict exactly how many need to go extinct before the world collapses,” says Ceballos. “The problem is that our environment is like a brick wall. It will hold if you pull individual bricks, but eventually it takes just one to make it suddenly fall apart.”
Extinctions are a part of the natural order, but this is much more severe. If humanity doesn’t change, and change almost immediately, Things are going to get much, much worse.
Within two generations, 75-percent of the species on Earth will be extinct.
“We have the potential for making massive change… and the bottom line is that we can’t be the generation responsible for wiping out three-fourths of life forms on the Earth,” says Barnosky.
The more cynical among us may see this as a sad, but ultimately manageable disaster. The sudden shock to the ecosystem will have an unforeseen impact on the Earth though. Whatever comes of it, it won’t be good.
Shockingly, even bewilderingly, the researchers are relatively optimistic about our chances.
“We have the potential of initiating a mass extinction episode which has been unparalleled for 65 million years,” says Ceballos. “But I’m optimistic in the sense that humans react — in the past we have made quantum leaps when we worked together to solve our problems.”
There are a handful of recommendations the research points to that could have an immediate impact for the better, but it would require a near-global effort on the part of humans to change out lifestyles.
The first recommendation is to reduce your carbon footprint. Given that this is something people are focusing more and more on, there is a good chance this could happen in a significant enough degree in the coming years to help. Maybe. It’s just one recommendation though.
The next is another that sounds easy enough: stop buying products made out of endangered species. Buying stuff like that increases poaching, and further hurts the ecosystem. And it’s just an awful thing to do. The research doesn’t make a point of this, but if you do know someone that goes in for products made out of endangered species, you should probably stop hanging out with them anyway because they are giant douchebags.
The third recommendation might be tough.
Barnosky recommends that everyone eat less meat, ideally all meat. 40-percent of the earth is set aside for cultivation. If all the lands that are meant to feed livestock suddenly grew crops instead, there would be enough to feed an additional one billion people. That, in turn, would reduce the need to clear untouched land for more cultivation.
Asking the world to give up meat won’t happen though. It just won’t.
According to the research, whatever we do, however we go forward, the future of Earth’s biodiversity will be decided in the next 10-15 years. If we haven’t made a major change by then, it will be too late.