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Will Humans Survive The 6th Extinction?
By Frosty Wooldridge

"Upwards of two hundred species.. mostly of the large, slow-breeding variety.. are becoming extinct here every day because more and more of the earth's carrying capacity is systematically being converted into human carrying capacity. These species are being burnt out, starved out, and squeezed out of existence.. thanks to technologies that most people, I'm afraid, think of as technologies of peace. I hope it will not be too long before the technologies that support our population explosion begin to be perceived as no less hazardous to the future of life on this planet than the endless production of radioactive wastes." Daniel Quinn

According to Norman Myers, Oxford University, United Kingdom, from 80 to 100 species suffer extinction daily across the planet.

What causes over 30,000 Earth creatures to fade out of existence? Answer: human overpopulation encroachment on habitat or human poisoning of habitat.

In a penetrating study done by Niles Eldredge, www.actionbioscience.org , we discover that humans could be swallowed up by their own fecundity and industrial cleverness.

Today, around the world, the "6th Extinction Session" accelerates at breathtaking speeds. In the USA, 250 species fade out of existence annually.

About 30,000 species go extinct annually.

"There is little doubt left in the minds of professional biologists that Earth is currently faced with a mounting loss of species that threatens to rival the five great mass extinctions of the geological past," said Eldredge. "As long ago as 1993, Harvard biologist E.O. Wilson estimated that Earth is currently losing something on the order of 30,000 species per year - which breaks down to the even more daunting statistic of some three species per hour. Some biologists have begun to feel that this biodiversity crisis - this "Sixth Extinction" - is even more severe, and more imminent, than Wilson had supposed."

Extinction in the past

"The major global biotic turnovers were all caused by physical events that lay outside the normal climatic and other physical disturbances which species, and entire ecosystems, experience and survive," said Eldredge. " What caused them?"

The previous mass extinctions were due to natural causes.


·         First major extinction (c. 440 mya): Climate change .  Second major extinction (c. 370 mya): Global climate change.  Third major Extinction (c. 245 mya): Scenarios explaining what happened at the greatest mass extinction event of them all (so far, at least!) at the end of the Permian Period have been complex amalgams of climate change perhaps rooted in plate tectonics movements. Fourth major extinction (c. 210 mya): The event at the end of the Triassic Period remains difficult to pin down in terms of precise causes.Fifth major extinction (c. 65 mya): Most famous, perhaps, was the most recent of these events at the end-Cretaceous. Consensus has emerged in the past decade that this event was caused by one (possibly multiple) collisions between Earth and an extraterrestrial bolide (probably cometary).



How is the Sixth Extinction different from previous events?

The current mass extinction is caused by humans.

"At first glance, the physically caused extinction events of the past might seem to have little or nothing to tell us about the current Sixth Extinction, which is a patently human-caused event," said Eldredge. "For there is little doubt that humans are the direct cause of ecosystem stress and species destruction in the modern world through such activities as: transformation of the landscape, overexploitation of species, pollution, the introduction of alien species.



"And because Homo sapiens is clearly a species of animal (however behaviorally and ecologically peculiar an animal), the Sixth Extinction would seem to be the first recorded global extinction event that has a biotic, rather than a physical, cause."

We are bringing about massive changes in the environment.

"Yet, upon further reflection, human impact on the planet is a direct analogue of the Cretaceous cometary collision. Sixty-five million years ago that extraterrestrial impact - through its sheer explosive power, followed immediately by its injections of so much debris into the upper reaches of the atmosphere that global temperatures plummeted and, most critically, photosynthesis was severely inhibited - wreaked havoc on the living systems of Earth. That is precisely what human beings are doing to the planet right now: humans are causing vast physical changes on the planet."

What is the Sixth Extinction?

Eldredge said, "We can divide the Sixth Extinction into two discrete phases:


· Phase One began when the first modern humans began to disperse to different parts of the world about 100,000 years ago.



· Phase Two began about 10,000 years ago when humans turned to agriculture."



Humans began disrupting the environment as soon as they appeared on Earth.

"The first phase began shortly after Homo sapiens evolved in Africa and the anatomically modern humans began migrating out of Africa and spreading throughout the world. Humans reached the middle east 90,000 years ago. They were in Europe starting around 40,000 years ago. Neanderthals, who had long lived in Europe, survived our arrival for less than 10,000 years, but then abruptly disappeared - victims, according to many paleoanthropologists, of our arrival through outright warfare or the more subtle, though potentially no less devastating effects, of being on the losing side of ecological competition.

"Everywhere, shortly after modern humans arrived, many (especially, though by no means exclusively, the larger) native species typically became extinct. Humans were like bulls in a China shop:


· They disrupted ecosystems by overhunting game species, which never experienced contact with humans before.


· And perhaps they spread microbial disease-causing organisms as well."



As you can see, as the United States continues to add 3.1 million people annually, we too become a part of the species devastation and extinction now accelerating around the planet. Niles Eldredge points it out very clearly as to what we are doing and what is happening. It will take a compelling paradigm shift away from human population growth to save other creatures on the planet, and ultimately ourselves.



You may contact Niles Eldredge at www.actionbioscience.org

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