Life has existed on for three quarters of Earth’s existence. Experts have estimated Earth has witnessed five major extinctions – when more than 75 percent of species disappear – in that time. And a growing scientific consensus believes a sixth mass extinction is now under way, with dire consequences for the future of humanity.
Billions of regional or local populations have been lost around the world, according to an aggregate of scientific studies.
By protecting all these planets and animals, we are paradoxically saving ourselves
Professor Gerardo Ceballos
And this “annihilation of nature” is happening faster than even pessimists could have predicted, according to Professor Gerardo Ceballos, of the Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México.
He believes people are only beginning to understand there is life on Earth because of wild plants and animals.
“The conditions that allow Earth to support all life depends on those organisms”, he said.
And human overpopulation combined with overconsumption are responsible for the crisis threatening the survival of human civilisation.
Professor Ceballos said: “I am extremely concerned about the situation.
“And unless there is a big shift both in behaviour and in politics at a senior level, we will see a collapse in civilisation.
“We definably have less than 30 years to prevent a biological catastrophe, and that is the best-case scenario.
“It may occur faster than that if we don’t act on stopping extinction. That is the urgency of the problem.”
The study, published in the prestigious Proceedings Of The national Academy of Sciences, avoids the normally sober tone of scientific papers.
Professor Ceballos said: “If we continue with the destruction of species and habitats, what we are doing is destroying Earth’s capabilities to maintain us.
“It will be unethical not to use strong language because the problem is so bad, it is right for people to be very concerned.
“By protecting all this planets and animals, we are paradoxically saving ourselves.”
The sixth mass extinction has several interlinking manmade cause.
About 200,000 people are born every day, even accounting for the global death rate, a statistic described as “a rate impossible to maintain”.
And rampant consumption combined with inefficient technologies are also held responsible for the “decimation of habitat at an unprecedented rate”.
The eminent scientist offers three statistics to illustrate the scale of destruction.
“Every 15 minutes an elephant is killed illegally for its ivory in Africa, that is the scale of destruction we are seeing.
“In Germany, for example 75 percent of flying insects were lost in 25 years. There were approximately 200,000 orang-utans approximately 50 years ago and we have lost half that number in the last decade alone.
“If the orang-utan population continues to decline at the same rate, there will be no orang-utans left in the wild in ten years.”
He believes if we continue with the destruction of species and habitats, what we are doing is destroying Earth’s capabilities to maintain us.
However he thinks there is still time to avert ecological catastrophe if “we give people the tools to act”.
Professor Ceballos said: “The window for action is very small and it is closing, but there is still time.”
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