Us humans, we sure do know how to leave a mark, the evidence of our existence. It is one of our biggest passions: to leave traces of us in this world, to not be forgotten, to do things that really matter.
We are the people that sustain the Holocene extinction
Unfortunately, even if some of us leave important beautiful legacies, as a whole, mankind leaves a blamable one: the Holocene extinction. Our lifestyle and goals, or so-called evolution and wild dreams of being rich and powerful transformed us into a pest. A pest that condemns everything we hold dear: life on Earth.
Not very different from what a virus, such as a coronavirus can do to our own kind, we do it at a rate of 100 to 1,000 times higher. It is natural for plants and animals to go extinct. But that is the speed we’ve been adding to this natural process with rising human population, destruction of habitats, the wildlife trade, pollution, and the climate crisis.
What is the extant decision we’re making when we decide we don’t care?
Mammals, birds, amphibians, reptiles, and arthropods are currently disappearing from this planet the way dinosaurs disappeared when the 15 km wide meteorite or comet hit it 66 million years ago. And extinction is an irreversible process. It doesn’t reverse like everything else that we do wrong does. It’s the final countdown of our actions, our trademark.
A recent study warns that in the next 20 years – instead of the thousands of years it would naturally have taken – more than 500 species will be gone. Soon, there will be no more Sumatran rhinos, Clarión wrens, Española giant tortoises, nor harlequin frogs.
We might think it doesn’t matter, as long as we’re fine. But we’re not. We live in a world where just like with our own bodies everything is interconnected. Every piece you take out, another one becomes endangered.
If the sea otters no longer exist, than sea urchins will devour the kelp. And without the kelp, the entire marine ecosystem is at risk. And if the water species starve, then birds and land species are endangered too.
“When humanity exterminates other creatures, it is sawing off the limb on which it is sitting, destroying working parts of our own life-support system,” said Prof Paul Ehrlich, of Stanford University in the US, and one of the researchers of the study.
New and old studies say the same: we need to start caring
Researchers looked at 29,400 land vertebrate species. 515 of them are considered to be on the brink of extinction since there are less than 1000 specimens left. Half of them are less than 250 left. Most of them are breathing their last in the tropical and subtropical regions.
Another 388 species had populations under 5,000, and 84% of them lived in the same regions as the species on the brink of extinction. Those are the perfect conditions for a domino effect that will add some of those 388 species on the extinction list soon enough.
Studies have shown that our actions generated the animal kingdom exodus. And that land species are having trouble migrating for survival all because of us. We don’t even let them try to survive.
We won’t be worthy ancestors for the future generations to come. “We are essentially robbing future generations of their inheritance,” said Prof. Andy Purvis, at the Natural History Museum in London. Purvis is not part of the research, but he made the statement as a reaction to it.
“The numbers in this research are shocking. However, there is still hope. If we stop the land-grabbing and devastating deforestation in countries such as Brazil, we can start to bend the curve in biodiversity loss and climate change. But we need global ambition to do that.” Mark Wright, the director of science at the World Wide Fund for Nature.