One major concern that humanity faces nowadays is the fact that the Earth has already entered its 6th mass extinction event. However, another just as alarming fact is that it is namely human beings who are responsible for this. As Withgott and Brennan state,it is of utmost importance for us to realize that “changes to Earth’s natural systems set in motion by human population growth, development, and resource depletion have driven many species extinct and are threatening countless more”. (2) Thus, there is one very important question that all of us, as human beings, need to ask ourselves in regards to our role as major contributors to the destruction of life on our planet. This question is as follows: What can we do to prevent the Earth’s 6th mass extinction and increase Earth’s carrying capacity for the generations to come?
According to Meaghan Middleton in her article “6th Mass Extinction?”, up until now, five major extinctions have been identified, with the most popular one being the so called Cretaceous-Tertiary extinction that took place 65-million years ago, in which the dinosaurs were among the roughly 66 % of species that disappeared from the face of the Earth after an enormous asteroid had hit the planet. Thus, can we say that a “human version of an asteroid impact is taking place” nowadays, as well? (2) Scientists suggest that a “sixth mass extinction may be under way, given the known species losses over the past few centuries and millennia”, which urges us to immediately recognize the need for conservation measures to prevent another, probably fatal, mass extinction. Click here to read the whole article. (3)
By watching this video, you can get a general idea of what is meant by Earth’s 6th mass extinction, the reasons that account for it and the negative consequences to which it will lead us unless we do something to prevent the continuing destruction of life on our planet:
As we can see from all previously mentioned, human population growth and earth’s carrying capacity are two of the factors that play a vital role in determining the rate of extinction. As Al Huebner contends in his article “A Mass Extinction in the Making? Human Activity’s Global Impact”,”human beings, as their population grows, take over habitats once used chiefly by animals. This growth of the human population, although slowed and even reversed in some regions, continues on a global scale” and as the “population continues to increase and expand, so too will the destruction of animal habitats and the loss of animal species.” (6) It has been estimated that the human population tripled over the last century (4); when we compare these statistics to the increase in the rate of extinction for the same period, we see that there is a positive relationship between population growth and the increase in the extinction rate.
The following graph represents the ever-increasing extinction rate since the beginning of the 20th century:
There is an interesting video from the Planet Green website that gives detailed information on the connection between population growth and species extinction. (7) You can watch the video here.
Considering that human population growth and the decrease in Earth’s carrying capacity are determining factors for the extinction of countless of species, what do you think we can do to prevent a 6th mass extinction together with all of its negative impacts for our planet?
As Middleton elaborates further, human beings have to “attempt to find a level of impact on our environment that allows for the greater good of the whole planet. In everyday terms, that would mean minimizing material sent to landfills and instead recycling waste, reducing the excessive production of unnecessary goods, and using natural and sustainable resources whenever practical…” We must “temper our advancements in technology, manufacturing and consumerism with an awareness that we are not alone on this Earth. This world, unlike so many of our possessions, is not under warranty, returnable, disposable or replaceable.”
Considering all this information, I believe that we, as human beings, should take some vital steps towards preserving life on our planet if we don’t want our human species to become extinct itself, which is only a question of time having in mind the fast pace with which life on planet Earth is disappearing due to our various activities. I believe that slowing down and restricting population growth is the first extremely important step that should be taken, followed by decreasing our consumption of non-renewable natural resources, developing and using other alternative energy resources and reducing all other various activities that harm our environment in one way or another and destroy animal habitats and whole natural systems.
It is my opinion that we can pursue these steps on both personal and a higher level, i.e. through the activities that we follow on an every-day basis and through different domestic and international environmental policies that will help us preserve our planet. As Middleton concludes her article, “it is inexcusable for us as a species to continue this reckless treatment of our home…perhaps by simply being more thoughtful on an individual level, and by holding our leaders to higher standards of responsibility in regards to environmental policy and legislation, we can mitigate the damage already done and prevent further needless destruction.”
It is of utmost importance for us to acknowledge that while we, as human beings, are the reason for the destruction and disappearance of life on our planet, we can also be the solution to it if we simply choose to lead more responsible lives and to take more care of and be more grateful to the place that nourishes us and makes our existence possible – our Home, planet Earth. We, as individuals, may not be alive in a couple of decades, but it is our responsibility to make sure that we do not destroy the only home for those coming after us, for our children.
(1) Call of Life: Facing the Mass Extinction DVD.” Call of Life: Facing the Mass Extinction DVD. N.p., n.d. Web. 11 Nov. 2012. <http://www.videoproject.com/calloflife.html>.
(2) Brennan, Scott R., and Jay Withgott. Environment: The Science behind the Stories. San Francisco: Pearson/Benjamin Cummings, 2005. Print.
(3) Middleton, Meaghan. “6TH MASS EXTINCTION?: What Scientists Say and What We Should Be Listening to.” The Mindful Word. N.p., n.d. Web. 11 Nov. 2012. <http://www.themindfulword.org/2012/6th-mass-extinction/>.
(4) “Programs.” Water Crisis: World Water Council. N.p., n.d. Web. 11 Nov. 2012. <http://www.worldwatercouncil.org/index.php?id=25>.
(5) “The Daily Galaxy: News from Planet Earth & Beyond.” Bigger Threat Than Global Warming: Mass Species Extinction. N.p., n.d. Web. 12 Nov. 2012. <http://www.dailygalaxy.com/my_weblog/2007/05/biocid_bigger_t.html>.
(6) Huebner, Al. “A Mass Extinction in the Making? Human Activity’s Global Impact.” Www.towardfreedom.com. N.p., 6 July 2011. Web. 11 Nov. 2012. <http://www.towardfreedom.com/environment/2454-a-mass-extinction-in-the-making-human-activitys-global-impact>.
(7) “Focus Earth: Too Many People.” Planet Green. N.p., n.d. Web. 11 Nov. 2012. <http://planetgreen.discovery.com/videos/focus-earth-too-many-people.html>.
(8) “Top 6 Social Statment Bodysuits for YourÂ Baby.” About.com Baby Clothes. N.p., n.d. Web. 11 Nov. 2012. <http://babyclothes.about.com/od/babyonesies/tp/SocialStatementOnesies.htm>.