Is Earth nearing its sixth mass-extinction?

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For years, we have worried about the end of civilization so much so that some people have started stocking up ‘to be prepared’ for it. In fact, in the starting of the year, New Yorker published a report stating that a vast number of entrepreneurs in the Silicon Valley anticipate the end of civilization to be experienced in the near future. As a result, they are stocking up on gold coins and other basic necessities, from buying food in bulk to investing in property at remote islands to make their safe havens.

But despite the political unrest around the globe, end of civilization is very unlikely to occur any time soon. The rising inequality may fail to trigger civil unrest yet, but the extreme inequality we exhibit towards wildlife is sure to have greater repercussions,read: mass-extinction.

According to many scientists, the Earth is entering its phase of sixth mass-extinction. In other words 75% of all species in our wildlife will be extinct in the coming centuries. And just how civil unrest triggered by extreme inequality is human induced, mass-extinction, or, perhaps, scientifically known as ‘biological annihilation’, is also human-led.

A study recently published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, gives this phenomenon a further detailed perspective. Authors of the study, including an ecology professor at the Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México and well-known biologist from the Stanford University, Gerardo Ceballos and Paul Ehrlich, respectively, have mentioned evidences that are not only striking but worrisome. They cite that many of the population of species we thought were common are silently suffering in numerous invisible ways.

Professor Ceballos talking to CNN said that “what is at stake is really the state of humanity.” He along with his co-authors found that among the 27,600 land-based species – the amphibians, mammals, reptiles and birds – one-third of them have gradually disappeared, diminishing in not only numbers but also in their territorial range.

What is more striking are the numbers the study quotes of mammals that have shrunk over the years. From the sample of 177 mammals the scientists studied, they found thatall of them lost 30% of their territorial range between 1900 and 2015; over 40% of them“experienced severe population declines,” which translates to those species losing at least 80% of their geographical range.Imagine this: humans losing that much of their land mass. Would seem unreal and, perhaps, unfair to confine the whole of human population to just 20% of their geographical range. However, we clearly don’t consider that for our wildlife species.

But we need to wake up and realize that this sixth wave of mass-extinction is much more severe and debilitating. Perhaps, it has already begun!

50% of the Earth’s wildlife has been wiped out in the last 40 years.

The reasons: Climate change – burning fossil fuels or chopping down forests for agriculture and owing to the rise in the global population. Poachers selling body parts of animals, including elephants, rhinos and giraffes, in the black market. All of this, among other things is pushing our wildlife into extinction.

So what do we do? The study published highlights these problems but also warns us to steer clear before it’s too late. “The good news is, we still have time,” says Ceballos. “It is time to act… we can still do something to save species and populations.”

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