An Era of Mass Extinction

Swapna Mirashi
An alarming message came out loud in July from scientists, warning us of something as dire as a mass extinction. From the common barn swallow to the exotic giraffe, thousands of animal species are declining, a sign that an irreversible era of mass extinction is underway. 

The previous five extinctions were caused by natural phenomena.  Conservatively, scientists estimate that 200 species have become extinct in the past 100 years, while the normal rate of extinction over past two million years has been of 2 species going extinct, due to evolutionary or other natural reasons. 

This, the sixth mass extinction, is caused in large measure by human destruction of animal habitats – like habitat degradation, pollution and climate change. Poachers are driving numbers of elephants, pangolins, rhinos, giraffes and other creatures with body parts valuable on the black market to worryingly low levels. The global population of people continues to rise, along with our thirst for land and consumption. All of this is contributing to a rapid decline in wild creatures, both on land and in the ocean. Dr. Ehrlich, author of ‘The Population Bomb’ in 1960s that predicted collapse of humanity due to overpopulation, said, ‘there is only one overall solution, and that is to reduce the human enterprise. Population growth and increasing consumption among the rich is driving it.’ Dr. Ceballos who researched this alarming paper highlights the urgency of this crisis — and the need for change. “The good news is, we still have time,” he said. “These results show it is time to act. The window of opportunity is small, but we can still do something to save species and populations.”