The Human Truth Foundation

Humanity is the Cause of the Earth's Current Sixth Mass Extinction Event

By Vexen Crabtree 2019


Comments:
FB, LJ

#overpopulation #the_environment #USA

Humanity is now the cause of the Earth's sixth mass extinction event due to our widespread destruction of the natural environments that house other species1,2,3,4. Since 1970 we have devastated freshwater habitats, causing a disastrous 83% reduction in population sizes3. We are presiding over "the worst loss of life on Earth since the demise of the dinosaurs"5. This is a problem that requires strong international co-ordination to fix, and yet, this decade, the spirit of international collaboration has been damaged by the rise of popularism6. Although 196 countries have done, the world's biggest consumer, the USA, has never signed the UN's Convention on Biological Diversity, and unfortunately, many of those that have signed up are not taking the issue seriously. It is of utmost importance that no matter what, we as a species stop our destruction of the natural world, mostly, by ceasing the conversation of land for farming and housing.


1. Loss of Species

#comoros #nigeria #overpopulation #the_environment #togo

There may be 100 million unique species on Earth at the moment. But this is only one tenth of the total number of species that have ever existed - 9/10ths are now extinct1,2. We are causing entire species to go extinct at 100 to 10,000 times the natural rate4. Scientists and environmentalists say the prime cause of this is the degradation of the environment by humanity1 and this constitutes the latest mass extinction event - the previous 5 being the result of natural phenomenon.

Between 1970 and 2014, we decimated wildlife populations by 60% globally3. The rate is increasing, alongside our population; just four years ago, it was only 52%.

The majority of species that have ever lived are extinct. [...] Five episodes of 'mass extinction' during the history of life are known and in the greatest of them, at the end of the Permian Era about 248 million years ago, it has been estimated that as many as 95% of animal species then living became extinct. [...] The cause for concern today is not the fact of extinction, but rather the rate at which it is now occurring, which appears to be far from normal. As E. O. Wilson has put it '... virtually all students of the extinction process agree that biological diversity is in the midst of its sixth great crisis, this time precipitated entirely by man'.

"Biodiversity and Ecosystems" by Silverton, Wood, Dodd & Ridge (2008)2

At the moment, 12% of all species are endangered, with the highest rates being in highly developed countries and in small islands where local environments have the least redundancy to cope with the changes we effect7. Our effect on the environment is by far the greatest cause of the loss of species. Between 1990 and 2008 alone we removed 1.2% of the world's forested areas and at that rate we are losing 12% per decade, which gives us only two generations to either severely reduce the deforestation rate before recovery becomes meaningless7. In Africa several countries have lost around a third of all their forests between 1990 and 2008 - Comoros, Togo and Nigeria have lost 68%, 52% and 43% respectively7. The forests house a massive range of species and every survey reveals many more, but the media only normally "focus on a few totemic species, such as lions, chimpanzees and pandas, rather than the collapsing ecosystems on which we depend"5.

2. The Primary Cause is Habitat Destruction

#environmentalism #the_environment

"Scientists and environmentalists fret that an increasing number of species may become extinct because of the degradation of the environment by humanity"1. We have damaged freshwater habitats the most, with populations decreasing by 83% since 1970; animals such as crocodiles are both directly hunted, in addition to losing the places where they can live and feed3. The worst region is south and central America3. We are destroying the balances between different species and destabilizing ecosystems, resulting in effects that will continue for a very long time3. The WWF reports that "the main drivers of biodiversity decline continue to be the overexploitation of species, agriculture and land conversion"8.

In the last 40 years, we have destroyed 20% of the Amazon; this rainforest is the largest on Earth, so rich in life that 1/3 of all species live there9. But huge swathes of land have been cleared and sold to cattle farmers and plantation owners9 - especially soya-bean producers as a result of a surge in demand since the 1990s5,9. Before this period, it took us 450 years to clear the same amount of rainforest9. One third of all species on Earth only live in the Amazon9, and we have directly caused the extinction of thousands of them.

3. Habitat Fragmentation

#the_environment

It is not just the wholesale destruction of habitats that is having a negative effect: Human constructions such as long roads, fences, walls and other obstacles result in habitat fragmentation10. Whilst it is hard for many of us to see this as a problem, it is a "major issue" and has "severe consequences for many species"10. Species that suffer can end up with serious population crashes and eventual local extinction.3

Habitat connectivity allows species to migrate to favourable conditions on a year-by-year basis, and, perhaps permanently if their home habitats become too degraded or altered. The greater the speed of change, and the greater the extent of change, the greater the need for suitable pathways in which species can migrate. Some solutions are simple such as animal crossings beneath roads. But even simple solutions are rare: We as a species are simply very poor at being careful with our effects on natural habitats.

4. Birds

#the_environment

Source:The Guardian (2018)11

Birds are very well studied, and serve as a great indicator of overall wildlife health12. The IUCN Red List divides populations (not just birds) into categories depending on the species' risk of going extinct. The rate of bird extinctions is "far higher than the natural background rate" and the causes are "agricultural expansion, logging, overexploitation, urbanisation, pollution"13. The chart to the right, based on Birdlife International data, shows what extinction vectors are affecting the 1469 bird species currently at the highest risk.

Analysis of the IUCN Red List shows that there has been a steady and continuing deterioration in the status of the world´s birds since the first comprehensive assessment in 1988. Highly threatened species continue to go extinct, while formerly common and widespread species are in sharp decline. At least 40% of bird species worldwide (3,967) have declining populations, compared with 44% that are stable (4,393) [also 7% are increasing and 8% lack data]. [...] As of [2017], 1,469 bird species (13% of the total, or one in eight) are globally threatened with extinction.

"The State of the World's Birds" by Birdlife International (2018)14

5. Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD)

#the_environment #USA

Convention on Biological Diversity
Pos.Later is worse
Signed
197USA
196Vatican City
195Andorra2015 May 05
194Palestine2015 Apr 02
193Somalia2009 Dec 10
192Iraq2009 Oct 26
191Brunei2008 Jul 27
190Timor-Leste (E. Timor)2007 Jan 08
189Montenegro2006 Jun 03
188Thailand2004 Jan 29
187Tuvalu2003 Mar 20
186Afghanistan2002 Dec 18
185Bosnia & Herzegovina2002 Nov 24
184Kuwait2002 Oct 31
183Serbia2002 May 30
182Saudi Arabia2002 Jan 01
181Libya2001 Oct 10
180Malta2001 Mar 29
179Liberia2001 Feb 06
178Azerbaijan2000 Nov 01
q=197.

The Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) was originally sparked from United Nations activity in the 1980s as a result of rising scientific alarm over the impact of human activity on natural habitats, including a rising awareness of extinctions and shifts in ecosystems that occasionally cause widespread disruption that is difficult (or impossible) to reverse.

After a long period of international consultation involving hundreds of scientists and environmental ministers, the Convention was finalized and launched at the Rio Earth Summit in 1992, and received 168 signatures over the subsequent year.

Part of the first wave of signees were a large number of small island nations, who are uniquely susceptible to over-exploitation by rich companies and countries, but simultaneously, are (as a group) the least responsible for driving global extinctions.

Data on when each country ratified the CBD forms part of the formula of the Social and Moral Development Index, with countries losing points for reticence (taking into account the foundation dates of newly independent countries). The slowest of them are charted on the right; of them, the USA stands alone in not ratifying it, but is the world's greatest driver for activities that cause biodiversity loss.

6. Politics Doesn't Work: We Need People to Change

#brazil #consumerism #politics #the_environment

While thousands of scientific studies have been published and then translated into policy reports, many experts have concluded that we have no made sufficient progress in stemming the losses of ecosystems and species. We are stymied by a range of obstacles, from lack of political will to unchanging human habits. For many environmentalists there is a growing realization that a broader sense of vision and values is missing. [...] Dire facts about environmental problems, as overwhelming as they may be, have not altered the kinds of human behaviour that are rapaciously exploiting nature [nor changed] habits of addictive consumption [and] policy experts are realizing that legislative or managerial approaches to nature are proving insufficient. [...] Values and ethics, religion and spirituality, are important factors.

"Religion and Ecology" by Mary Evelyn Tucker (2011)15

Mike Barrett, executive director of science and conservation at WWF, said the starting point should be a recognition that the international response until now has been a failure. [We need to] consider trade and investment because it is no use wealthy countries donating a few hundred million dollars for conservation programmes in Africa, Asia and Latin America if they continue to promote trillion-dollar trades in commodities that accelerate the loss of habitats. As an example, he said the contributes money to efforts to protect the Cerrado savannah in Brazil yet at the same time imports vast quantities of the soya beans that are the biggest cause of deforestation in that region.

"Habitat loss threatens all our futures, world leaders warned" in The Guardian (2018 Nov 17)5

Current edition: 2019 Feb 23
http://www.humantruth.info/sixth_mass_extinction.html
Parent page: Human Exploitation: the Environment and Slavery

All #tags used on this page - click for more:

#brazil #comoros #consumerism #environmentalism #nigeria #overpopulation #politics #the_environment #togo #USA

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References: (What's this?)

The Guardian. UK newspaper. See Which are the Best and Worst Newspapers in the UK?. Respectable and generally well researched UK broadsheet newspaper.

Birdlife International
(2018) The State of the World's Birds. Date last accessed 2019 Feb 17.

Clarke, Peter B.. Peter B. Clarke: Professor Emeritus of the History and Sociology of Religion, King's College, University of London, and currently Professor in the Faculty of Theology, University of Oxford, UK.
(2011) The Oxford Handbook of The Sociology of Religion. Originally published 2009. Current version published by Oxford University Press, Oxford, UK. A paperback book.

Colwell, Mary
Amazonia - Keeping It Alive. Date last accessed 2014 Apr 13. Radio 4 programme, broadcast 2012 Jul 05 at 21:00.

Millennium Ecosystem Assessment. (MEA)
(2005) Ecosystems and Human Well-Being: Current States and Trends. Published by Island Press, Washington DC, USA.

Silverton, Wood, Dodd & Ridge
(2008) Biodiversity and Ecosystems. 2nd edition. Originally published 2003. Current version published by The Open University, Milton Keynes, UK. By Jonathan Silverton, Carlton Wood, Mike Dodd and Irene Ridge. Book 2 of Open University course U316 The environmental web.

Stenger, Prof. Victor J.
(2007) God, the Failed Hypothesis: How Science Shows That God Does Not Exist. Published by Prometheus Books, NY, USA. Stenger is a Nobel-prize winning physicist, and a skeptical philosopher whose research is strictly rational and evidence-based.

Tucker, Mary Evelyn. Senior Lecturer and Research Scholar at Yale University, New Haven, USA, and, Director of the Yale Forum on Religion and Ecology.
(2011) Religion and Ecology. This is chapter 45 of "The Oxford Handbook of The Sociology of Religion" by Peter B. Clarke (2011)1 (pages p819-835).

United Nations
(2011) Human Development Report. Published by the UN Development Programme. This edition had the theme of Sustainability and Equity: A Better Future for All. Available on hdr.undp.org/... UN Development Program: About the Human Development Index.

WWF. (World Wide Fund for Nature)
(2018) Living Planet Report 2018. Collaboration of 59 scientists 'from across the globe'.

Footnotes

  1. Stenger (2007). p70-71.^^^^
  2. Silverton, Wood, Dodd & Ridge (2008). Chapter 1 "A Living World" p13.^^
  3. WWF (2018) .^^^^
  4. Birdlife International (2018). p22.^^
  5. Watts (2018 Nov 17) Habitat loss threatens all our futures, world leaders warned. Date last accessed 2019 Feb 15. In UK newspaper The Guardian.^^^^
  6. Popularism: When Mass Instincts Defeat National Strategy^
  7. UN (2011). Table 6.^
  8. WWF (2018). Chapter "Executive Summary".^
  9. Colwell, Mary .^
  10. MEA (2005). p96.^
  11. The Guardian (2018 Apr 23) Article "One in eight bird species threatened with extinction, global study finds". Date last accessed 2019 Feb 17.^
  12. Birdlife International (2018). p12.^
  13. Birdlife International (2018). p30.^
  14. Birdlife International (2018). p20,22.^
  15. Tucker (2011). p831.^

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