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A paper published on June 19 by researchers from Stanford and UC Berkley among others says that the Earth has entered its sixth mass extinction with animals dying out at 100 times the normal rate. Based on a normal baseline rate of two mammal extinctions per 10,000 vertebrates every 100 years approximately nine vertebrate species should have disappeared since 1900. But the research paper’s extinction count stands at 477!

Baiji River Dolphin (last one seen in 2002, maybe extinct)

If the number of extinctions had followed the normal rate, it would’ve taken 10,000 years for 477 species to disappear. According to Paul Ehrlich one of the co-authors of the study, the extinction rate is the highest it has been in 65 million years. The study counted well-documented and observed extinctions of mammals. Extinctions can occur due to various environmental factors but the study emphasized human’s effect on the environment directly leading to this crisis.

The study cites the current mass extinction to be a direct result of industrialization, high use of fossil fuels and overexploitation of the environment for economic gain as the main contributing factors, all of which in turn is connected to rapid population growth. Another co-author Anthony Barnosky said “In one or two human lifetimes, we are the ones wiping out what evolution took millions of years to create.

Spix's Macaw

Spix’s Macaw (extinct)

This mass extinction will ultimately affect humans too in as little as 3 generations in various ways (crop pollination for example) in a permanent way on human time scales since it took millions of years for the planet to re-diversify after the previous mass extinctions. There is hope though, conservation efforts can slow the process but the study says the window of opportunity is small and increasing populations and it’s consequences are going to be detrimental. We hope world organizations are taking note and will act quickly to control human populations and to also grow in a more sustainable way. What could we do on an individual basis? That will be a topic for another blog:).

Pyrean Ibex (extinct)

TUF Quote

TUF Quote

“Tell me and I forget. Teach me and I remember. Involve me and I learn.” – Benjamin Franklin

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