Scientists Think that the Sixth Extinction Is Looming

Qiu Dao

PureInsight | August 26, 2002

According to a July 21 Reuters’ news report from Johannesburg, South Africa, the Earth Summit, which will be held in August, received a U.N. report on poverty and the environment. The report warned that 12 percent, or 1,183 species of bird and nearly one quarter of all mammal species, are regarded as globally threatened.

According to the news, many credible scientists fear the sixth mass extinction on earth is unfolding. According to the book, The Sixth Extinction, by Richard Leakey and Roger Lewin, there have been five mass extinctions in the past 500 million years, each wiping out countless species on Earth. The two best known mass extinctions killed off dinosaurs and gave rise to coal forests. Scientists say that the sixth extinction will be brought about entirely by people.

“In the next 50 to 100 years there is a good possibility that there could be a mass extinction of species which is human-induced,” said Dr. Susan Lieberman, director of the Species Program at the World Wildlife Fund for Nature (WWF.) Leakey and Lewin, the authors of The Sixth Extinction, estimate that perhaps 50 percent of all species will become extinct within the next 100 years. Others take a more measured view, but agree that a crisis is unfolding.

The endangered black stork is a typical example of a human-induced extinction. Presently, the black stork’s global population is between 7,000 and 9,500 nesting pairs. The biggest population, between 4,500 to 6,000, is found in eastern Europe. A Latvian ornithologist, Maris Strazds, said that laws mandate a 50-acre logging ban around the nests of black storks, but landowners often simply cut their trees down and plead ignorance to the presence of the birds. Human industries, such as logging and building dams near their nests, are the primary causes for specie’s decline. The U.N.’s Food and Agricultural Organization estimates that forests, which cover around a third of the world’s surface, have diminished by 2.4 percent since 1990. The biggest losses have been in Africa, where 130 million acres, or 0.7 percent of its forest cover has diminished in the past decade.

There are other threats to species besides loss of habitat, including global warming and environmental pollution. The WWF’s most recent Living Planet Index (LPI), based on the population trends on hundreds of species of birds, mammals, reptiles, amphibians and fish, has fallen 37 percent over the past 30 years.

Humanity’s impact on biodiversity will be high on the agenda at the World Summit on Sustainable Development. Conservationists hope that historians do not look back five decades from now and see it as a missed opportunity to avert what could be the greatest loss of life on the planet since the extinction of the dinosaurs.

The crisis of declining species continues to soar even with the implementations of various regulations, as well as political and economic reforms. The earth has become full of sores and wounds from the endless forays to satisfy the extremely greedy desires of humans. Is it a failure in conservation or the human moral code, if this sixth mass extinction really to happens?


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