WAN’s South African Correspondent; The Current 6th Mass Extinction, Do We Have Only 100 Years Left?


Imagine a life without the possibility of ever seeing a wild animal, empty oceans with little or completely devoid of life? Seems an abysmal existence, right? Well, the sad news is, we’re on track to see just that happen.

In 2006, the well-known physicist and cosmologist, Stephen Hawking stated that humans had around 1,000 years to find an alternative to Planet Earth for human habitation. 1,000 years, you’re probably thinking its way outside of your timeline on this planet so why is it your problem right?

Well, not so fast, in a revised statement earlier this year which can also be seen on BBC’s Expedition New Earth documentary, Hawking states that Earth no longer has what was originally estimated as 1,000 years left in her, but rather, only 100 years remaining to sustain us.

That’s right, within the next century Earth will have had her fill of humans and given us our marching orders. That woke me up.

Experts have calculated that between 0.01 and 0.1% of all species will become extinct each year. If we take the low end of that estimate to be true and maintain that there are approximately two million species on the planet, then we can expect to see anywhere from 200 – 2,000 extinctions to occur every year. If there is a total of 8.7 million species that we have estimated approximately thus far, well, that’s a different story.

It has been further stated that species extinction is happening at a rate of 1,000 times faster because of humans and our impact on our environment.

According to the IUCN (The International Union for Conservation of Nature), there are now around 41,415 species on their ‘Red’ list, and 16,306 of them are endangered species threatened by extinction. The endangered species include one in four mammals, one in eight birds, one-third of all amphibians and 70% of all the world’s plants.

Our planet is now in the midst of her sixth mass extinction of plants and animals – the sixth wave of extinctions in the past half-billion years.

At present, we are experiencing the worst wave of dying-off since the dinosaurs about 65 million years ago. By mid-century, we could see as much as 30-50% of all species we know today on the brink of disappearing.

For some, that won’t seem like much, but when you consider that unlike the past mass extinctions, which consisted of asteroid strikes, naturally occurring climate shifts and volcanic eruptions, the current mass extinction crisis is the result of one singular cause, and I have no doubt you can guess what…who that is?

You got it, humans. Over 90% of currently threatened species are at risk due to human activities, in particular, habitat loss, the introduction of conflicting exotic species and the biggie, global warming. In any particular scenario, it’s not just one threatened species that is affected, if you read one of my previous articles titled ‘The Butterfly Effect,’ you will see that there are a concatenation of events that take place that affects every living thing in our food chain.

An extremely oversimplified example would look something like this:

A Mongoose primarily survives on snakes, which feeds on Chameleons, which eats caterpillars whose staple diet is leaves. Eliminate any one of these in the equation, and it wreaks havoc on the natural order and equilibrium of nature.

Due to the elimination of its natural predator, a now overabundant species overfeeds on another species further down the food chain, which pushes the species on which it feeds to the point of scarcity, and so on.

Nature is perfect in her design, it is only due to the interference of man, that her decline has been pushed way beyond its naturally ordained augmentation.

It is an inherently assumed responsibility of every single human being on this planet to preserve, nurture, and maintain the natural order of everything on this planet.

That’s not to say this should be done at the cost of human advancement, but rather in spite of it. Co-existence carries with it responsibility, and that responsibility requires awareness.

To be aware means to be mindful, respectful and responsible for that which we do, and nothing means more in our present day than being responsible for everything we do that affects the world around us.

It means being respectful of our natural environment which couldn’t be more imperative considering the flora on our planet is the sole provider of clean oxygen, without which, we die, end of story, do not pass start, do not collect $200.

And yet here we are, taking, every day. We take the oxygen our plants and trees provide, we take the meat from the animals, we take the precious minerals from our soil, we take the harvest of fruit and crops, always taking, and what do we offer in return?

What do we do for that privilege provided by the plants, animals, and land that just keep on giving that so many of us take for granted? Nothing.

We simply take more, we just keep collecting until it all runs out, then we look to the next thing from which we can take, we put out our open hand and take more or we take it by force, and so it continues.

When do we stop, look around at what we are doing and ask ourselves, or one another, “What can we do to give back? What can we do to help, what can we do to restore just some part of what we are taking on a daily basis?”

Just remember that number… we have only 100 years left.

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