Sixth Mass Extinction Of Species – Do We Care At All?

According to the latest findings, the number of animal species that went extinct as a result of a squandering human activity since the rise of industrial society is so enormously high it is possible to speak of a sixth mass extinction of species already underway and running in full speed.

This is the first mass extinction of species in 66 million years since the famous events that led to the extinction of dinosaurs. However, if those events were most likely caused by a sudden disaster of a natural origin, the current one is unique since it is the first mass extinction of species in the planet’s history to be caused by members of another species. That is, by us, human beings.

Based the most conservative estimate, the total number of animal vertebrate species that went extinct in the last century would have taken about 900 to 10,000 years to disappear under the background rates (standard rates of extinction of a species in Earth’s geological and biological history before humans became a primary contributor to extinctions, i.e. naturally occurring extinctions of species).

The research summary is available online at http://advances.sciencemag.org/…/e1400253.full-text.pdf+html , and there are more scientific articles of that kind that reach similar conclusions. Contrary to some popular beliefs, there IS a consensus among the majority of scientists who point out to the destructive role of humans on the planet’s ecosystem.

If moral aspects of this tragic ecological fatality don’t trouble the most hardhearted members of our own species, who unfortunately can’t care less about the demise of millions of our beautiful living companions with which we share our planet, they should nevertheless be very worried. You see, this drastic loss of biodiversity is a result of a crucial interference in ecosystems, in which everything is interlinked, and a mass extinction of species of such proportions means that it will not take a lot of time to backfire on other living organisms, and humans too, including both the most advanced altruistic thinkers and the most callous ones who only care about satisfying the most primitive necessities.

The level of public awareness of the ongoing ecological disaster has got to rise worldwide if we want to avert a dramatic decay of biodiversity and prevent the subsequent loss of ecosystem services. If not because of the moral aspects of this calamity, then out of concern for our nearest descendants we got to intensify conservation efforts, do it globally and at the level of the highest authorities.

Environmental issues – biodiversity loss, Arctic methane release, climate change, among many others – should hold a central place in everyday talk of the general public. If these issues become a top priority problem to discuss among the majority of the public worldwide, then it will mean that our global society has reached a proper level of environmental awareness. It will signify that the humanity is wholeheartedly ready to implement the changes suggested by the environmentalists, and the world leaders will, most likely, unite their efforts in order to meet the demands of the vast majorities of their electorate.

Probably the most important body that is able to turn the approaching environmental catastrophe into an important part of the public concern, is the mass media.  But the current situation is, unfortunately, far away from heading in that direction. According to a recent study done by Klout.com on most popular topics among Facebook and Twitter readers, entertainment, lifestyle and food are the perennial leaders of the public interest (the study can be found here: “Topic That Get A Reaction”, by Michelle Bentino, Nov. 2014, found on: http://blog.klout.com/2014/05/topics-that-get-a-reaction/).

If we tried to draw a portrait of an average mass media user today, we would get someone who is browsing quickly through the local/international political headlines, skipping the news on a menace of the ecological catastrophe (if there are any), only to get faster to the familiar pieces on a latest entertaining tinsel, be that Kim Kardashian, Kanye West, Games of Thrones, First Lady, Bieber, Messi, Woods, or any other object of public amusement.

According to my own personal observation of social media, another major part of today’s social media users tirelessly spend hours upon hours vindicating or attacking various paradigms and ideologies of different kinds (most of which truly belong to the early medieval level of conscience and rhetoric), rather than reading one article (in full) on dying coral reefs worldwide, or on 477 species of vertebrates that went extinct since 1900.

Of course, the complete study on the linkage between the presence of environmental issues in social media, general public’s concern and environmental awareness, and possible ways to improve the situation, will have to examine a great number of additional aspects, such as the exact mechanisms of Facebook news’ preference in the news feed, for example; personal picks of the news creators; and many more. Meanwhile, however, what we can and, most certainty, must do in the wake of the approaching crisis, is to try and personally promote focusing on environmental issues. Regularly talking about them within our social groups, being active on these topics in social media, and reading and educating ourselves as much as we can on each and every issue will certainly help exposing more people to the problem.

And remember, when we promote environmental awareness, we always need to try and get the following point across: if we don’t immediately see, hear or in any other way sense certain things happen, it doesn’t mean they’re not happening at all.

Research Article:

“Accelerated modern human–induced species losses: Entering the sixth mass extinction”, by Gerardo Ceballos1, Paul R. Ehrlich2, Anthony D. Barnosky3, Andrés García4, Robert M. Pringle5 and Todd M. Palmer, in Science Advances, Vol. 1, no. 5 (19 Jun 2015), retrieved online on: http://advances.sciencemag.org/content/1/5/e1400253

Author affiliations:

1 Instituto de Ecología, Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México, México D.F. 04510, México.
2 Department of Biology, Stanford University, Stanford, CA 94304, USA.
3 Department of Integrative Biology and Museums of Paleontology and Vertebrate Zoology, University of California, Berkeley, Berkeley, CA 94720–3140, USA.
4 Estación de Biología Chamela, Instituto de Biología, Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México, Jalisco 48980, México.
5 Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, Princeton University, Princeton, NJ 08544, USA.
6 Department of Biology, University of Florida, Gainesville, FL 32611–8525, USA.

↵*Corresponding author. E-mail: gceballo@ecologia.unam.mx

Additional media links on this topic:

http://www.usatoday.com/…/sixth-mass-extinction-s…/29028887/
http://www.washingtonpost.com/…/the-earth-is-on-the-brink-…/
http://www.m24.ru/videos/85867Research Article [in Russian]

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