Posted On 14 May 2019
The current rate of extinction shows how much trouble life on Earth is in.
- 40% of amphibians are threatened [with extinction]
- 33% of marine mammals are threatened
- 33% of sharks are threatened
- More than 90% of ocean fish stocks are being harvested at or above sustainable levels
- 33% of corals are threatened
- 10% of insects are threatened
- 9% of terrestrial animals are threatened
- 85% of wetlands have disappeared
These figures come from an article in The Economist (11 May 19) that obtained them from the “Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services” published on 6 May 19. This report is based on 15,000 research papers.
Sadly, there’s nothing surprising about them. Yes, the figures are estimates, but they are the most reasonable guesses that science is able to provide. Yes, the figures involve assumptions and extrapolations, but the big picture is clear.
Ignoring bacteria, fungi, and unicellular organisms, Earth has about 8,000,000 species of plants and animals. (About 200,000 plant species and about 950,000 animal species are scientifically described.) About 1,000,000 of those species are threatened with extinction.
Are We to Blame for Extinction?
Human actions have “significantly altered” 75% of Earth’s land environments and 67% of Earth’s marine environments according to the report.
The Industrial Revolution began a little over 2 centuries ago. Prior to that, land and marine species found Earth’s environments a veritable paradise.
Of course we are to blame!
What Should We about Extinctions?
Obviously, we need to change our ways quickly and decisively.
While the ignorant and selfish continue to resist even admitting the problem, one minor encouraging note is that young, educated people in the U.S. seem to grasp the idea that the future will be a disaster for our species as well as for many other species without quick, decisive action.
Even if that’s the case, though, I’m skeptical. In general, human beings seem to have little capacity for even apprehending such large problems – much less acting in concert to ameliorate them.
It amazes me that humans are still breeding. Do those other people not yet grasp what Earth will be like physically even by the end of this century?
There is, though, a solution, namely, millions or, better, billions of us will wake up from sleep and free ourselves from the conceptual prisons in which most of us live (cf., e.g., Taylor’s Waking From Sleep).
It could happen. Or not.