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6th Mass Extinction Underway

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The Earth’s sixth mass extinction is already underway — and humans are the driving force behind it, according to a new study.

“Recent extinction rates are unprecedented in human history and highly unusual in Earth’s history,” according to a study published Friday in the journal Science Advances. “Our global society has started to destroy species of other organisms at an accelerating rate, initiating a mass extinction episode unparalleled for 65 million years.”

Researchers used “extremely conservative assumptions” to determine extinction rates that prevailed in the past five annihilation events. Still, they found the average rate of vertebrate species lost over the past century was up to 114 times higher than normal.

For example, about 477 vertebrate species have gone extinct since 1900, according to the study. Based on previous extinctions, only nine species would have been expected to die off in the same time frame had it not been for mankind’s involvement.

“The number of species that have gone extinct in the last century would have taken … between 800 and 10,000 years to disappear,” the study reported. “These estimates reveal an exceptionally rapid loss of biodiversity over the last few centuries, indicating that a sixth mass extinction is already underway.”

The previous five mass extinctions happened well before mankind walked the Earth, and are believed to have been mainly caused by natural disasters, such as asteroid impacts and volcanic eruptions.

The last mass extinction happened some 65 million years ago, killing off the dinosaurs. Overall, each mass extinction event has rid the planet of up to 96% of its species each time.

In the past few decades, several animal species have been labeled extinct, including the Chinese paddlefish, Yangtze River dolphin, Pyrenean ibex and western black rhinoceros.

Earlier this week, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced it would push for the extinct eastern cougar to be removed from the endangered species list. The big cat likely vanished about 70 years ago, the agency said in a statement. Its disappearance is largely linked to over-hunting and loss of habitat from European immigrants dating to the 1800s.

Among the World Wildlife Fund’s critically endangered species — those at the most at risk of going extinct today — are the Amur leopard, black rhino, leatherback turtle, Sumatran tiger, and western lowland gorilla.

In as little as three generations, the current extinction pace could dramatically alter the number of species on the planet — permanently, the study said. In previous extinction events it took hundreds of thousands to millions of years for the planet to rediversify.

Researchers said it’s not too late to avoid a true sixth mass extinction, but it will “require rapid, greatly intensified efforts to conserve already threatened species and to alleviate pressures on their populations — notably habitat loss, overexploitation for economic gain and climate change.”

“However, the window of opportunity is rapidly closing.”


21 Comments on "6th Mass Extinction Underway"

  1. BobInget on Sun, 21st Jun 2015 9:30 am 

    What Scares Us… Most

    Across China: Thawing permafrost may accelerate global warming
    Jun 19,2015

    LANZHOU, June 19 (Xinhua) — New data may reinforce the relationship between melting permafrost and global warming.

    Permafrost, soil or rock that remains frozen all year round, releases greenhouse gases when it thaws, accelerating global warming, according to Zhang Tingjun, dean of the college of earth and environmental sciences, Lanzhou University in northwest China’s Gansu Province.

    Zhang has been studying permafrost for many years. With carbon in the atmosphere estimated at about 750 billion tonnes, carbon held in permafrost worldwide exceeds 1.83 trillion tonnes. Climate change which causes permafrost to melt and release greenhouse gases will, in turn, aggravate global warming.

    “The effect of carbon stored in permafrost on global warming, if fully released, would probably be larger than the combined influence of all human activities,” Zhang said.

    Zhang’s latest research shows that the Tibetan Plateau accounts for 6 percent of permafrost in the northern hemisphere, and holds 160 billion tonnes of carbon, about 9 percent of the total for the hemisphere.

    According to a report published by the institute of Tibetan Plateau research in August, the plateau was warmer in the past five decades than any period in the past 2,000 years, and it will get hotter and more humid in decades to come.

    Compared with the permafrost found at high latitudes such as Alaska and Siberia, permafrost in China is more sensitive to climate change. “A temperature rise of one or two degrees Celsius has a limited impact on high-latitude permafrost as it is mostly at eight below zero. Permafrost on the Tibetan Plateau is warmer, less than two below zero most of the time, which means a temperature rise of one degree or two will entail severe degeneration,” Zhang said.

    Zhang’s latest research predicts that permafrost coverage on the plateau will continue to shrink and desertification will get worse, which increases the risks of disasters, including landslides and floods.

  2. Rodster on Sun, 21st Jun 2015 9:58 am 

    It’s been going on for decades now. You can’t ruin your environment and not pay the price. We have ruined/poisoned the air, land and sea. We kill animals just for sport or because we want to make stuff from their carcasses. The numbers don’t lie and in 80-100 years from now whatever is left of humans on this planet will pay a heavy price for allowing companies like MonSatan to ruin the soil and the 7 million+ tonnes of garbage along with pollutants in the ocean.

    Eventually the planet kicks back or as George Carlin used to say: “pack your shit folks, you’re going away. Maybe you leave a little plastic behind, maybe.”

  3. Pveroi on Sun, 21st Jun 2015 10:01 am 

    Keep in mind this is species loss. Population losses are also staggering. I’ve read that estimated half of all vertebrate populations have been lost in my lifetime alone.

  4. Kenz300 on Sun, 21st Jun 2015 10:31 am 

    We all need to do more to protect the earths resources.

    For Faithful, Social Justice Goals Demand Action on Environment – The New York Times

  5. Kenz300 on Sun, 21st Jun 2015 10:42 am 

    Wind, solar, wave energy and geothermal are the future. Safe, clean alternative energy sources are growing in use around the world.

    Renewable Energy Responsible for First Ever Carbon Emissions Stabilization – Renewable Energy World

  6. penury on Sun, 21st Jun 2015 11:19 am 

    Wind, solar, wave energy and geothermal are the future. I believe that this statement embodies the truth. However I am much afraid that the future as envisage does not include homo sapiens. Any survivors will be limited in numbers and unable to further rape their environment.

  7. davy on Sun, 21st Jun 2015 11:25 am 

    Well said Pen but we could add that the pre-industrial wind, solar, geothermal, and biomass resources and technologies will increasingly be the default for most of humanity that survives the end of industrial man.

  8. Rodster on Sun, 21st Jun 2015 5:54 pm 

    “UK Government Study Finds: If Nothing Is Done, Expect Civilizations’ Collapse By 2040”

  9. Makati1 on Sun, 21st Jun 2015 8:34 pm 

    Rodster, I think civilization’s end will come before that. Much before. 2040 will be the Dark Ages, if we are lucky. The last generation, if we are not.

  10. hiruitnguyse on Sun, 21st Jun 2015 9:24 pm 

    Nasty surprise….

  11. GregT on Sun, 21st Jun 2015 9:55 pm 

    Not really a surprise hiruit, for those who have actually been paying attention. (which apparently isn’t very many of us)

  12. hiruitnguyse on Sun, 21st Jun 2015 10:13 pm 


  13. hiruitnguyse on Sun, 21st Jun 2015 10:34 pm 

    Meanwhile, man made misery continues….

  14. ffkling on Mon, 22nd Jun 2015 12:52 am 

    The Chinese have a festival that centers around skinning alive and burning while alive 14,000 innocent cats and dogs? Jesus.

  15. GregT on Mon, 22nd Jun 2015 2:59 am 

    Try to keep things in perspective ff. While I also find eating dogs and cats to be sickening, over 1.6 billion animals are slaughtered globally every year, of which 20 percent are slaughtered solely for US markets.

  16. Davy on Mon, 22nd Jun 2015 6:57 am 

    Greg, you can try to put perfume on shit but it still reeks. China is disgusting in far too many ways to put China forth as the new superpower culture to replace the decaying US one. I am not pointing fingers at you but others here who talk China and Asia up.

    Ape Man posted this longish but startling and sobering post yesterday. Every China lover here needs to read it. China is leading herself and the world to the cliff. The west is responsible for getting us up most of the way to the top but China will take us over. Here is the link and a list of things China needs to do to correct its suicide and the death of the world:

    • Shut down all but critically essential coal-fired power plants needed as a temporary measure to keep the lights and heat on and essential public services in operation until renewable replacements can be brought on line. Abandon the coal gasification projects and phase out oil- and gas-powered fuel plants as quickly as possible. Force a rapid transition of energy generation to renewable wind, water and solar energy sources but with the goal of producing much less electricity overall, closer to what China produced in the early 1980s before the market-driven industrialization boom. The US and other developed countries should be obliged to provide extensive technical and material assistance to facilitate this transition.
    • Shut down most of the auto industry. This industry is just a total waste of resources and is the second-biggest contributor to global warming. Most public transportation will have to shift back to bicycles, buses, trains and subways – basically a modernized and expanded version of what the Chinese had in the early 1980s before the auto craze. But the air will be cleaner, transportation will be faster, people will be healthier and immense resources will be conserved.
    • Shut down most of the coastal export industries. Most of China’s coastal export industries are geared to producing unsustainable, disposable products, as noted above. There is just no way to have a sustainable economy in China or anywhere if we don’t abolish the throwaway repetitive-consumption industries in China and around the world.
    • Retrench or close down aviation, shipping, and other redundant and unsustainable transportation industries. Abandon the “aviation superpower” boondoggle. Abandon further expansion of the high-speed train network. China has already built more planes, trains and subways than it needs by any rational accounting of needs. Same with the shipbuilding industry, most of which is geared to container and bulk carrier shipping. This industry needs to be drastically reduced as China’s imports and exports decline with industrial contraction.
    • Shut down most of the construction industry. Even with China’s huge population, the country is massively overbuilt and littered with useless, superfluous buildings, housing, highways, bridges, airports and so on. Some of this can be repurposed. Some should be demolished and the lands returned to farmlands, wetlands, parks or other beneficial use.
    • Abandon the urbanization drive and actively promote re-ruralization.Urban life has its advantages but urban residents consume several times the energy and natural resources and generate several times as much pollution as rural farm families. Besides, most of the tens of millions of Chinese who were relocated to the cities in the last three decades did not go voluntarily; they were forced off their farms by land-grabbing, profiteering local officials. Those ex-farmers who wish to return to the land should be permitted to do so. There is no law of nature that says farm families must be impoverished. In today’s world, family farmers with adequate land and decent technology, who can market their own produce so they don’t get ripped off by middlemen, and who are not under the thumb of banks, landlords or state-landlords, can do very well. (101) China’s farmers are poor because the state has been squeezing them to subsidize industrialization. The best way to raise rural living standards is to give them security in their farms and pay them fair prices for their produce.
    • Abandon the imperial plunder and Han colonization of the West.Xinjiang, Tibet and Mongolia are not ethnically Chinese. If the Chinese government abandons its market-based development strategy it would have no “need” to plunder the natural resources of the West; those peoples can be left in peace to develop at their own pace and in accordance with their ecological limits. And after wrecking so much of their environment, the Chinese owe them some help.
    • Launch an emergency national plan for environmental remediation and restoration of public health. Chinese environmental and health experts have called for a comprehensive integrated plan to address the nation’s environmental and public health issues. (102) Experts say it could take generations to restore China’s farmlands, rivers and lakes to tolerable biological health though, as noted above, in places this may be impossible. A significant share of the costs of this remediation should also be borne by the Western nations whose companies callously contributed to this pollution by offshoring their dirtiest industries to China.
    • Launch a national public works jobs program. If China is going to have to shut down so much of its industrial economy to brake the drive to ecological collapse, then it is going to have to find or create new jobs for all those displaced workers. In Guangdong Province alone, there are something like 40 million manufacturing workers, most of them dedicated to producing the sorts of needless products described above. Forty million unemployed workers would be a big problem. And that’s just Guangdong. But unbreathable air, undrinkable water, unsafe food, polluted farmland, epidemic cancer, rising temperatures and rising seas along coastal China are bigger problems. So there’s just no way around this very inconvenient truth. Making bad stuff has to stop; stopping it will unemploy vast numbers of workers, and other, non-destructive, low-carbon jobs have to be found or created for them. Fortunately, in China, there is no shortage of other socially and environmentally useful work to do: environmental remediation, reforestation, transitioning to organic farming, transitioning to renewable energy, rebuilding and expanding public social services, rebuilding the social safety net, especially for China’s aging population, and much else.

  17. GregT on Mon, 22nd Jun 2015 10:01 am 

    I’m not doing anything of the sort Davy. I’ve seen the videos of the dog and cat slaughters and I find them repulsive, but I’ve also seen videos of how we slaughter animals here. Equally repulsive.

    These problems are not solved by pointing fingers. If we aren’t going to ‘walk the walk’, then we have no right to ‘talk the talk’. Boycotting all Chinese manufactured goods in the West would be a very good place to start, but of course that would pretty much shut down our economies, so we won’t do it.

    We make up about one twentieth of the world’s population, but we consume one fifth of the world’s energy and resources. It is our lifestyles in Western nations that are currently causing the most damage to the planet Earth. Telling other countries that they can’t live like we do, isn’t going to solve anything.

  18. Davy on Mon, 22nd Jun 2015 10:22 am 

    Telling other countries not to live like we do because it is a mistake is what I am saying. I agree on per capita consumption validity but one must look at total consumption also.

    China is well past the U.S. In almost all categories other than oil.! How do you explain that away? Complaining about percapita consumption while valid does not take Asia off the hook for total consumption. Besides in just a few short years China’s middle class will be as large as the U.S.

    My point is China and Asia are no alternative and in reality on the same level as the west in destructiveness. There is far too much admiration of China and Asia and at the same time negative finger pointing at the U.S. That is bullshit in my book.

  19. penury on Mon, 22nd Jun 2015 10:40 am 

    In the middle ages the philosophers would argue about the number of Angels that could dance on the head of a pin. Currently people like to argue whether your use of resources will despoil the earth, while my use of resources is good for the earth. And why we are better because with our 5 per cent we only use 20 per cent of the world resources while that nasty other country which has 14 per cent of the population is leading us to ruin because they use less than 10 per cent of the resources. We are all in the same life boat. The water is rising and the supplies are running out.

  20. GregT on Mon, 22nd Jun 2015 10:50 am 

    “China is well past the U.S. In almost all categories other than oil.! How do you explain that away?”

    Boycotting the import of all Chinese goods would go a long way to reducing Chinese “consumption”, and would also shut down their export driven economy. China’s middle class is not growing because they produce rice. The only way to shut down the Asian rise to global superpower, is to stop consuming the stuff that they produce. Many have been talking for decades about the consequences of allowing US multinationals to offshore manufacturing and labour. What we are seeing now, is exactly what myself and many others predicted 20 years ago. If we have any hope of stopping the dragon from breathing fire, we need to stop feeding it, which I fully support doing.

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