What is extinction? According to Eniscuola, extinction is an evolutive process that results in the complete eradication of certain species or populations. When something is extinct, it is gone for good.
Since the dawn of time, the earth has seen five major extinctions. However, many researchers believe we’re approaching the sixth extinction - and this time, it’s caused by humankind.
Each year, the earth loses thousands of species of animals due to extinction. In fact, the rapid loss of species is somewhere between 1,000 and 10,000 times higher than the natural extinction rate.
Naturally, previous extinctions have rocked the earth and completely changed the course of history. So, can the sixth extinction be prevented? If so, how? To find solutions, the cause itself needs to be tackled.
Humans Are Directly Causing The Next Mass Extinction
It’s no coincidence that humankind has seen vast developments over the last few decades, and the deterioration of ecosystems around the world has followed. There’s a direct correlation between the two, and this is backed up by a recent UN study that looked at the impact of humans on the rest of the world.
The study exposed many alarming stats and figures about biodiversity loss in the last fifty years. There’s an entire section dedicated to the direct and indirect drivers of change, and many of them are related to changes in land and sea use, direct exploitation of organisms, climate change, pollution, waste - the list goes on and on. 80% of wastewater from mining - and other industries - is pumped directly back into oceans or lakes, contaminating the water that many species live in. Plastic waste has increased by a staggering 1000% in the last 30 years alone, directly affecting marine life. On the land, 75% of all land has been altered for human gain, decimating the animal populations.
Then, there’s deforestation. The recent Amazon rainforest fires gained global coverage, but what most people don’t realize is that things like this have been happening for years. Rainforests all over the world are being chopped down, and the trees are used for human gain, at the expense of all the wildlife living there.
Climate change is also a significant factor in the changing face of planet earth. As the global temperature reaches new average highs each year, this directly impacts ecosystems throughout the planet. The icecaps are melting, putting animals like polar bears at extreme risk of extinction. There is so much pollution in major cities that a lot of birds and other animals simply can’t live in those conditions anymore, which puts them in danger of dying out as well. To make matters worse, climate change is directly linked to mankind, too! Humans have been burning fossil fuels for centuries, and this has increased air pollution while heating up the planet.
The Impact Of The Sixth Extinction
Many people may read this blog post and think nothing of it. Why does it matter if species are becoming extinct? Well, it’s all to do with the impact of biodiversity on the planet. In essence, biodiversity means the variety of plant and animal life in various habitats. When this gets disrupted, it has a knock-on effect that can upset the balance of life on earth.
As a basic example, what happens if bees suddenly become extinct? This may seem like a random example, but the fact is that bees are disappearing at an alarming rate. Without bees, crops won’t be pollinated. Thus, many essential plants will no longer grow, meaning human beings will have a mass shortage of food. Also, plants serve a vital role in in consuming CO2 and pumping out oxygen for humans to breathe. So, without them, humankind would struggle to live.
If you’re wondering “what is the sixth extinction”, and why should it be a cause for concern, this should provide the answer. This is just one example of the global impact as well; there are many others.
How Can We Prevent Extinction?
Going back to the UN report, a few key points were made with regards to slowing down or preventing the sixth extinction. OMA has already begun taking steps to fight this with conservation efforts in many endangered rainforests. Unfortunately, conservation isn’t enough to elicit a direct shift.
Instead, it comes down to a change in perspectives and policies from world leaders. Investments need to be made in green infrastructure to help tackle things like climate change. Renewable energy needs to become commonplace in every major country, and stricter environmental laws must be put in place to prevent deforestation, unnecessary farming in the oceans, and so on.
Researchers need to focus on finding innovative ways to grow food while using less land, which gives more land back to animals and plants. So many things need to be done, but it starts with a change in attitude. World leaders - and regular citizens - need to stop hiding from the facts. Doubters will point to the previous five extinctions and say these things are part of the natural way of life. However, as research has shown, species are being extinct beyond the standard rate - and things are getting worse each year.
As citizens and consumers, there are small changes that can be made. Avoid single-use plastic to cut down on waste, be more conscious when buying products; choose ones that use natural resources to minimize the environmental impact of manufacturing. Support foundations or charities that are working hard to undo all the damage of the last fifty or so years.
The bottom line is that things won’t change overnight. But, if everyone started making a few little changes to their lives, then the global impact would be huge. The acts of citizens can also put pressure on governments to stop dodging the sixth extinction and start addressing it. From here, policy changes can take place, and a new global attitude to conservation and biodiversity can help prevent this imminent extinction from happening.