I know we’re surrounded by the trigger-happy. So, who has wiped out whom now?

Well, the cleansing we’re discussing here doesn’t involve guns. And the guilty includes you and I.


I mean, humans as a whole.

I’m curious .

A new study says the world is experiencing the ‘sixth great extinction’ of the animal species thanks to, mainly, human activities.


Yes. The 4.5-billion-year history of our humble planet is dotted with periods when species have died en masse. The first one occurred 443 million years ago; End-Ordovician. Next came Late Devonian, 360 million years ago. The third phase of doom was the Permian-Triassic mass extinction, some 250 million years ago. The fourth, Triassic-Jurassic mass extinction, hit us about 200 million years ago, while the fifth, in which we lost the dinosaurs, came just about 65 million years ago. This last one was called Cretaceous-Tertiary mass extinction.

Scary! So, what makes you think we are reaching the sixth round?

The new study, Accelerated modern human-induced species losses: Entering the sixth mass extinction , which was published in the journal Science Advances a few days ago, says under a ‘natural’ rate of extinction, two species in 10,000 disappear every 100 years. But the modern rates of extinction will scare the hell out of you — these were 8 to 100 times higher, according to the study by Gerardo Caballos and his colleagues at the National Autonomous University of Mexico.

Oh dear!

In sum, 477 ‘vertebrates’ (mammals, birds, reptiles, amphibians and fish) have gone extinct since 1900, instead of the 9 on a natural course. Examples of the species that bid adieu forever include the beautiful Yangtze dolphin and the Costa Rica golden toad.

And we facilitated this exodus?


How did we manage that? Was this a necessary evil?

To claim that offers us an undeserved bailout. We literally destroyed our way into this situation. Humans invaded habitats and introduced practices that were totally opposed to nature’s ways, creating a recipe for disaster.

Scientists have been warning about this for quite long now, but global policymakers are yet to come up with any serious, collective action plan to check the pace of specious extinction. Even climate change, one of the most critical crises the planet faces today, is not finding the kind of response it deserves, as you may have noticed already.

That’s exactly what Pope Francis said last week.

Yes. The Pope has warned of an “unprecedented destruction of ecosystems” and “serious consequences for all of us” if we do not act on climate change. Interestingly, the Science Advances papers came out just a day after the Vatican released the Catholic pontiff’s encyclical on the environment.

God help us!

Like he did in the past five episodes of extinction? Anyway, the Mexican scientists say theirs is a very conservative number. Which means they have taken only the most plausible scenarios into account, such as habitat loss, predation, pollution. They do not consider, for instance, the effects of global warming or ocean acidification. Once the effects of these catastrophic events start kicking in, the numbers will be much higher. And this is what makes the impending sixth extinction a uniquely human contribution. It’s a crisis, fully man-made.

So, what’s the way out?

Well, you know it — it’s so simple it’s a cliché: minimum interference with the ways of nature.

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