Sixty six (66) million years ago, a 6-mile-wide space rock caused a tsunami in the Atlantic Ocean, along with earthquakes and landslides up and down what is now the Americas. A heat pulse baked the Earth, and the Tyrannosaurus rex and its compatriots died out, along with 75% of the planet’s species. There have in fact been 4 additional occurrences where there have been mass extinctions on earth.
Scientists believe another devastating mass extinction event is taking place today — the sixth of its kind in Earth’s history. Global fauna is being decimated on multiple fronts, as hotter oceans, deforestation, and climate change drive animal populations to drop in unprecedented numbers.
Humans are driving these alarming extinction trends. According to a 2014 study, current extinction rates are 1,000 times higher than they would be without humans. Up to 1 million plant and animals species face extinction, many within decades, due to human activity. A 2017 study found that animal species around the world are experiencing a biological annihilation and that our current mass extinction episode has proceeded further than most assume. Up to half of the total number of animal individuals that once shared the Earth with humans are already gone.
A 2017 study looked at animal populations across the planet by examining 27,600 vertebrate species — about half of the overall total that exist. More than 26,500 are threatened with extinction. Currently, 40% of the planet’s amphibians, 25% of its mammals, and 33% of its coral reefs are threatened. The IUCN predicts that 99.9% of critically endangered species and 67% of endangered species will be lost this century.
The UN report estimated that 40% of amphibian species, more than 33% of all marine mammals and reef-forming corals, and insects are dying off at record rates. If the trend continues, the Earth may have no insects at all by the end of the century. That’s a major problem because insects like bees, hoverflies, and other pollinators perform a crucial role in fruit, vegetable, and nut production. Plus, bugs are food sources for many bird, fish, and mammal species — some of which humans rely on for food. The recent UN report calculated that projected declines in the populations of wild bees and other pollinators put $577 billion in annual crop production at risk.
Insects aren’t the only creatures taking a hit. In the past 50 years, more than 500 amphibian species have declined worldwide, and 90 have gone extinct, with at least 2,000 species estimated to be in danger of extinction. The loss of even one species could also cause an “extinction domino effect” to ripple through an ecosystem, causing the entire community to collapse.
Events like climate change can multiply these effects by up to 10 times. Research suggested that the loss of one species can make more species disappear (a process known as co-extinction) by causing a sudden shift in a system. A 2015 study examined bird, reptile, amphibian, and mammal species, and concluded that the average rate of extinction over the last century is up to 100 times higher than normal. Around the world, about 50% of the world’s reefs have died over the past 30 years.
Logging and deforestation is of particular concern. Every year, more than 18 million acres of forest disappear worldwide. That’s about 27 soccer fields’ worth every minute. Warming oceans are leading to unprecedented Arctic and Antarctic ice melt, which could raise sea levels significantly. The Antarctic ice sheet is melting nearly six times as fast as it did in the 1980s. Greenland’s ice is melting four times faster now than it was 16 years ago. It lost more than 400 billion tons of ice in 2012 alone.
Previous mass extinctions came with warning signs. Those indicators were very similar to what we’re seeing now. If we continue on this path, in the next 50 years the planet will need up to 10 million years to recover from this mass extinction.
Everybody’s going to save something now. Save the trees, save the bees, save the whales, save the snails. And the supreme arrogance? Save the planet! We don’t even know how to take care of ourselves; we haven’t learned how to care for one another. We’re gonna save the planet? . . . And, by the way, there’s nothing wrong with the planet in the first place. The planet is fine. The people are fucked!