A mass extinction is the eradication of a large number of species within a short period of geological time due to catastrophic factors occur too rapidly for most species to adapt. Today, many scientists think the evidence indicates a sixth mass extinction is under way. The Holocene extinction, also known as the Sixth Extinction or Anthropocene extinction, is ongoing and humans are to blame.
Pollution is one of the primary ways humans have caused severe modifications of wildlife habitat. We have sabotaged the air, water, soil and given little consideration to the ecological consequences of our actions. As a result, wildlife populations are confronted with a bewildering array of pollutants, being suffocated, strangled and eventually killed.
The global temperatures are warming because of greenhouse gases that humans are pumping into the atmosphere. One major consequence is that melting glaciers are raising the sea level. Flooding, increasing temperature and other climate-related consequences make species unable to exist in their original homes.
Hunting is a way for humans to systematically wipe out species very quickly. Animals are poached for cultural medicine, trading, clothing or personal interests.
The more humans convert land to their own purposes, the less habitat left for animals. Natural habitats are being converted for human use at an alarming rate. About half of the earth’s original forests are gone. In fact, we are losing forests at the rate of 20 football fields per minute. If the current rate of deforestation continues, it will take less than 100 years to destroy all the rainforests on Earth.
Recent extinction rates are unprecedented in human history and highly unusual in Earth’s history:
- World Wildlife Fund (WWF) estimates the extinction rate is 1000–10,000 times faster than natural and each year, 200–2000 species go extinct.
- Mother Nature Network (MNN) reports that 38% of all land animals and 81% of freshwater vertebrates went extinct between 1970 to 2012.
- In just the past 40 years, nearly 52 percent of the planet’s wildlife species have been eliminated.
- According to the study published in the journal Science Advances, 75 percent Earth’s species could be lost in the span of two generations.
Humans: The Next Victim
Humans will not be spectators to the phenomenon but rather victims as well. Just before his death in 2010, Professor Frank Fenner left a chilling warning for future generations, saying the end is on the horizon for humanity.
The human race faces a one in 500 chance of extinction in the next year, an expert mathematician has claimed. That is twenty times more likely than dying in a car crash.
So is it all lost? Avoiding a true sixth mass extinction will require us rapid, greatly intensified efforts to conserve already threatened species and minimize the amount of chemical pollutants to the environment. But time is of the essence, the window of opportunity is rapidly closing.