Date: 19 June 2015
Source: Stanford University
Summary: Biologists have used highly conservative estimates to prove that species are disappearing faster than at any time since the dinosaurs’ demise.
Publication: Science Daily News Release
There is no longer any doubt: We are entering a mass extinction that threatens humanity’s existence.
That is the bad news at the center of a new study by a group of scientists including Paul Ehrlich, the Bing Professor of Population Studies in biology and a senior fellow at the Stanford Woods Institute for the Environment. Ehrlich and his co-authors call for fast action to conserve threatened species, populations and habitat, but warn that the window of opportunity is rapidly closing.
“[The study] shows without any significant doubt that we are now entering the sixth great mass extinction event,” Ehrlich said.
Although most well known for his positions on human population, Ehrlich has done extensive work on extinctions going back to his 1981 book, Extinction: The Causes and Consequences of the Disappearance of Species. He has long tied his work on coevolution, on racial, gender and economic justice, and on nuclear winter with the issue of wildlife populations and species loss.
There is general agreement among scientists that extinction rates have reached levels unparalleled since the dinosaurs died out 66 million years ago. However, some have challenged the theory, believing earlier estimates rested on assumptions that overestimated the crisis.
The new study, published in the journal Science Advances, shows that even with extremely conservative estimates, species are disappearing up to about 100 times faster than the normal rate between mass extinctions, known as the background rate.
“If it is allowed to continue, life would take many millions of years to recover, and our species itself would likely disappear early on,” said lead author Gerardo Ceballos of the Universidad Autónoma de México.
Excerpts from ‘Sustainable Living – True Conservation’, and the role of human population levels in what ‘conservation’ really means
Lamenting the conflicting viewpoints associated with the management of wild elephant populations in South Africa, the author of “Sustainable Living – True Conservation’ summarizes the conflict primarily as being between animal rightists arguing in favor of protecting elephant populations within protected areas and wildlife managers arguing that they cannot do this to the detriment of the system as a whole for a variety of reasons. He concludes that “Both arguments are right, but both are totally missing the point. Rapidly declining biodiversity on a regional, national or international scale is not as a result of growing elephant populations, or any other animal population for that matter, but as a direct result of the exponential increase in the human population putting unprecedented strain on all the natural systems of our planet which directly influences the survival of all other species, including our own, but yet it goes unchecked and ignored as if it does not exist.” The author concludes his article with the following summary, which I think poses some of the ethical, moral, and functional dilemmas facing population control strategists.