Sixth Extinction of Earth Underway including Humans

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    Feb 13, 2014 3:14 AM GMT
    A violent collision is happening between humans and our planet’s ecosystem: the Andes, the Amazon rain forest, the Great Barrier Reef — and our backyard. The role of man-made climate change in causing what biologists call the sixth mass extinction — the current spasm of plant and animal loss that threatens to eliminate 20 to 50 percent of all living species on earth within this century.

    Since the origin of life on earth 3.8 billion years ago, our planet has experienced five mass extinction events. The last of these events occurred some 66 million years ago when a six-mile-wide asteroid is thought to have collided with earth, wiping out the dinosaurs. The Cretaceous extinction event dramatically changed the composition of biodiversity on the planet: Marine ecosystems essentially collapsed, and about 75 percent of all plant and animal species disappeared.

    Today, we are witnessing a similar mass extinction event happening in the geologic blink of an eye. According to E. O. Wilson, the present extinction rate in the tropics is “on the order of 10,000 times greater than the naturally occurring background extinction rate” and will reduce biological diversity to its lowest level since the last great extinction.

    This time, however, a giant asteroid isn’t to blame — we are, by altering environmental conditions on our planet so swiftly and dramatically that a large proportion of other species cannot adapt. And we are risking our own future as well, by fundamentally altering the integrity of the climate balance that has persisted in more or less the same configuration since the end of the last ice age, and which has fostered the flourishing of human civilization.

    http://www.nytimes.com/2014/02/16/books/review/the-sixth-extinction-by-elizabeth-kolbert.html
  • AMoonHawk

    Posts: 11406

    Feb 13, 2014 3:18 AM GMT
    TLDR ... we're all still here ... que sera sera ... live for today, for tomorrow is never certain
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    Feb 13, 2014 3:44 AM GMT
    Extinction is a relatively new idea in the scientific community. Well into the 18th century, people found it impossible to accept the idea that species had once lived on earth but had been subsequently lost. Scientists simply could not envision a planetary force powerful enough to wipe out forms of life that were common in prior ages.
  • MikeW

    Posts: 6061

    Feb 13, 2014 4:43 AM GMT
    Modern humans (Homo sapiens sapiens) are the only remaining species of the hominids, a branch of social great apes characterized by erect posture and bipedal locomotion; manual dexterity and tool use; and a general trend toward larger and more complex brains. Early hominids, such as the australopithecines who had more apelike brains and skulls, are less often thought of or referred to as "human" than hominids of the genus Homo. Of these, Homo erectus, Homo ergaster, and Homo heidelbergensis are considered to be the most likely immediate ancestor of modern humans. Homo sapiens reached anatomical modernity about 200,000 years ago and began to exhibit full behavioral modernity around 50,000 years ago. Humans have become the most cosmopolitan species, with established populations on all but the smallest, driest, and coldest lands; and permanently manned bases in Antarctica, on offshore platforms, and orbiting the earth.


    The last section of the white arrow on this graphic shows the approximate length of time "humans" (as defined above) have been on Earth (click image to see it full size):

    Geological_time_spiral.png

    What does it mean that a relatively young species has been so successful at "surviving" that its continued survival now threatens not only a regional ecological crisis (such as desertification) but the habitability of the planet of its origin? By "mean" in this instance I'm asking from the point of view of the theory of evolution itself.

    Looked at from the long point of view of life's history on this planet, the arrival of homosapiens sapiens is only a "blink" of the evolutionary eye. And yet this blink of 200,000 years is a thousand times longer than the mere 200 or so years of 'modern' history, with the beginnings of the industrial revolution, and everything that has come in its wake.

    So what is it, exactly, that changed? How is it that we coexisted for 200,000 years more or less in balance with nature and then suddenly, within a few hundred years, we find ourselves at this specific juncture?

    I think this is a very serious and important question, especially if one takes into consideration that (so far as we know) during the previous 200,000 years, humankind existed in a "mythological" consciousness. That is to say, our understanding of our world and the universe was based almost solely within a mythological framework. (I like to say that human origins are mythological but this seems to confuse people to no end.)

    Consider that, again so far as we know, during all this time, there was NO CONCEPT that we were a "species," that inhabited "a planet," much less that this "planet" was part of a star system; one of billions in a galaxy; which itself is one of countless billions in the universe. This whole scientistic frame of reference that we have for understanding ourselves and our ecological predicament is something that has arisen ONLY within the VERY recent past.

    The metaphor I use is one of history being a wave that is cresting as it nears the shore. We are on the curling edge of that wave, arriving at a point of species self-awareness (something unthinkable here-to-fore) where we begin to see how much depends on what we do, whether or not we are capable of becoming a truly responsible species. That is, one that does not merely identify with its "kind" (species, race, nation, religion, economic philosophy, etc., -- at war with 'everything perceived as other') but sees itself as apart of a very complex whole. A species that does not merely "react" to external stimuli (fright flight fight) but accepts responsibility for its actions and, thus, becomes self-determining.

    How is it that all this has arisen in a scant few hundred years?
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    Feb 13, 2014 4:47 AM GMT
    The article reviewed that: Many today find it inconceivable that we could possibly be responsible for destroying the integrity of our planet’s ecology. There are psychological barriers to even imagining that what we love so much could be lost — could be destroyed forever. As a result, many of us refuse to contemplate it. We allow ourselves to be deceived by those with a stake in persuading us to ignore reality.
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    Feb 13, 2014 4:47 AM GMT
    I once wrote this in a story:

    "Over There, in the world as Men knew it, an illness was progressively and subtly unfolding itself, unlike any seen in the planet’s long, long history.

    Dreadful, complicated, the environment that made the world liveable was coming apart. Manufactured chemicals had found their way into the very cells of all that lived. The sky had developed holes in the protective envelope that stopped dangerous radiations from reaching the delicate stuff of life. Right down to the atomic, those tiny orbiting bits that made up the fabric of existence, there was an encroaching corruption.

    It affected Man in more than just physical aspects. Emotional balances were being knocked out of kilter. Anxiety and denial warred with each other in the human heart. Depression over the unspoken knowledge that the world was, after all, finite, weighted the aspirations of the human soul like heavy stones. As always, humanity had science and religious faith to mitigate these effects, but both were starting to fail. Depressed, sad, hopeless and resigned to a much believed in apocalyptic future, humanity accelerated the degradation of the world by vast consumption of the very things that needed to be spared. Doing so seemed to alleviate feelings of concern and foreboding with a temporary happiness that seemed all the more sweeter for its fleeting warmth.

    The waste from this consumption found its way into the geological makeup of the world. Areas that were uncorrupted, unpolluted were now scarce and isolated pockets. Weather patterns had intensified. Great deserts were born and conversely, incursions of the oceans into and over the lands of Men occurred. Storms of hitherto un-experienced proportions caused massive destruction. Large numbers of the displaced became refugees in their own countries. Whole species of animals were dying out. Balances had been lost, and the world’s natural self, plant life, animal life, insect life and the lives of the microscopic began to invade each others’ territories, seeking survival.

    Existence was a slow and creeping poison, as pervasive as the air that was beginning to kill those that depended on it for life. Canisters of the invisible death that Man had eventually harnessed to produce the electrical power so absolutely necessary had been tossed into the oceans and were beginning to disintegrate, releasing lethal emanations that would last eons as they dispersed."


    - A Ribbon Of Beauty
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    Feb 13, 2014 4:49 AM GMT
    For example, we continue to use the world’s atmosphere as an open sewer for the daily dumping of more than 90 million tons of gaseous waste. If trends continue, the global temperature will keep rising, triggering “world-altering events”. According to a conservative and unchallenged calculation by the climatologist James Hansen, the man-made pollution already in the atmosphere traps as much extra heat energy every 24 hours as would be released by the explosion of 400,000 Hiroshima-class nuclear bombs. The resulting rapid warming of both the atmosphere and the ocean, which has been noted has absorbed about one-third of the carbon dioxide we have produced, is wreaking havoc on earth’s delicately balanced ecosystems. It threatens both the web of living species with which we share the planet and the future viability of civilization.
  • Import

    Posts: 7190

    Feb 13, 2014 4:56 AM GMT
    well, we all gotta die of something, right?
  • MikeW

    Posts: 6061

    Feb 13, 2014 4:57 AM GMT
    Import saidwell, we all gotta die of something, right?

    Yeah, but do we have to take the whole damn planet with us?
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    Feb 13, 2014 4:58 AM GMT
    The earth’s water cycle is being dangerously disturbed, as warmer oceans evaporate more water vapor into the air. Warmer air holds more moisture (there has been an astonishing 4 percent increase in global humidity in just the last 30 years) and funnels it toward landmasses, where it is released in much larger downpours, causing larger and more frequent floods and mudslides.
  • Import

    Posts: 7190

    Feb 13, 2014 5:00 AM GMT
    MikeW said
    Import saidwell, we all gotta die of something, right?

    Yeah, but do we have to take the whole damn planet with us?


    The cycle man.
    It'll happen again and again until the end of time.

    I feel like this is natural.
    One species dominates for x amount of years and is wiped out and anew species dominates. It will happen a million times
  • Import

    Posts: 7190

    Feb 13, 2014 5:03 AM GMT
    Perhaps now is the time we should explore the option of leaving planet earth and the physically fit and gorgeous move to another planet and colonize it.

    Leaving this filthy planet to the vagrants.
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    Feb 13, 2014 5:04 AM GMT
    The extra heat from the warmer oceans is also absorbed in the top layer of the seas, which makes ocean-based storms more destructive. Just before Hurricane Sandy, the area of the Atlantic immediately windward from New York City and New Jersey was up to nine degrees warmer than normal. And just before Typhoon Haiyan hit the Philippines, the area of the Pacific from which it drew its energy was about 5.4 degrees above average.
  • Posted by a hidden member.
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    Feb 13, 2014 5:05 AM GMT
    Import saidPerhaps now is the time we should explore the option of leaving planet earth and the physically fit and gorgeous move to another planet and colonize it. Leaving this filthy planet to the vagrants.
    Unfortunately, of the 40 millions other planets that can support life none has Earth environment that can sustain us. Bacterias will though.
  • MikeW

    Posts: 6061

    Feb 13, 2014 5:08 AM GMT
    Import said
    MikeW said
    Import saidwell, we all gotta die of something, right?

    Yeah, but do we have to take the whole damn planet with us?


    The cycle man.
    It'll happen again and again until the end of time.

    I feel like this is natural.
    One species dominates for x amount of years and is wiped out and anew species dominates. It will happen a million times

    I'm not sure that is an accurate reading of the paleontological record. I don't see any prior species *causing* a planetary level mass extinction. Especially one that had the *potential* (through its own self-awareness) to avoid doing so.
  • Apparition

    Posts: 3515

    Feb 13, 2014 6:58 AM GMT
    planet earth in and of itself is fine. it doesnt matter to her whether we can tolerate it. cockroaches wont notice
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    Feb 13, 2014 8:39 AM GMT
    MikeW said
    Import saidwell, we all gotta die of something, right?

    Yeah, but do we have to take the whole damn planet with us?

    The planet will survive. Human life will get pretty bad (after we're all dead and gone) because of famine and wars over land (lebensraum) when so much good land sinks under the waves, and so much more becomes desert. But the Chinese and other rich asians will have wiped out all the elephants and rhinos long before then, and the Indians the tigers, and most tropical forests will have been cut down for palm oil plantations - so what difference will it make if other species go as well? Eventually, evolution (natural selection) will cause new species to evolve that can live in the enviornment that had become too toxic for current species being wiped out. With any luck there will be new diseases that wipe out a lot of the increased human population, and bring it down to a more managable size. This will probably happen long after our grandchildren have passed on.
  • Posted by a hidden member.
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    Feb 13, 2014 8:43 AM GMT
    MikeW said
    Import said
    MikeW said
    Import saidwell, we all gotta die of something, right?

    Yeah, but do we have to take the whole damn planet with us?


    The cycle man.
    It'll happen again and again until the end of time.

    I feel like this is natural.
    One species dominates for x amount of years and is wiped out and anew species dominates. It will happen a million times

    I'm not sure that is an accurate reading of the paleontological record. I don't see any prior species *causing* a planetary level mass extinction. Especially one that had the *potential* (through its own self-awareness) to avoid doing so.

    What difference does it make whether prior species "caused" mass extinction (they didn't). Humans may wipe out a lot of other species, but there is not reason to surmise that some of them won't survive to continue on as best they can. Humans are the onl species that can really think and plan and have determination to affect the enviornment.
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    Feb 13, 2014 9:46 AM GMT
    The next 'extinction event' will be more like bubonic plague where large numbers of people die, than what happened to the dinosaurs. There are people rich enough to survive almost any calamity that could happen.
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    Feb 13, 2014 2:41 PM GMT
    Our oceans, a crucial food source for billions, have become not only warmer but also more acidic than they have been in millions of years. They struggle to absorb excess heat and carbon pollution — which is why coral reefs might be the first entire ecosystem to go extinct in the modern era.
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    Feb 13, 2014 2:54 PM GMT
    This is so horrible!!! Ugh we humans are so selfish that we don't even care about our environment! This should not be happening. We need to find a way to clean this up!
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    Feb 13, 2014 3:03 PM GMT
    I'm sure some sort of disaster is coming and I'm sure enough humans will find a way to survive.
    (Beautiful diagram, Mike.
    Exceptional writing skills, MIL.)
  • TheiKevin

    Posts: 75

    Feb 13, 2014 3:10 PM GMT
    If we haven't already been warned by future civilizations via time machine that what we're doing is harmful, how harmful can it really be? icon_wink.gif
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    Feb 13, 2014 3:10 PM GMT
    Gabriel_Munoz saidThis is so horrible!!! Ugh we humans are so selfish that we don't even care about our environment! This should not be happening. We need to find a way to clean this up!


    it's too late, there's already too many people
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    Feb 13, 2014 3:14 PM GMT
    somersault said
    Gabriel_Munoz saidThis is so horrible!!! Ugh we humans are so selfish that we don't even care about our environment! This should not be happening. We need to find a way to clean this up!


    it's too late, there's already too many people


    then there is no other way besides population control! e.e