This conversation is closed.

Do enough people, espescially children, know that we are living in an extinction event caused mostly by us?

Of all the chaos going on in the world I cannot think of one more disturbing than the fact that we are decreasing the diversity of life by an estimated factor of 150 species per day.

Why is this not a more prominent topic?

  • Apr 4 2013: I suggest that there is substantial doubt (doubt arising from the lack of evidence to the contrary) that we are living in an extinction event, and if we are, that it is caused mostly by us.
    Our inability to answer these questions directly correlates to the degree of understanding by the majority.
    'If' these questions are answered affirmatively, let us hope that the time it takes to perfect our understanding of the dilemma does not leave us with insufficient time to remedy it, if indeed such a remedy is possible (too late of course for the 150 species per day that have perished in the meantime).
    Furthermore, I suggest that a decline in biodiversity of 150 species a day (whilst shocking to me), is not especially high when taken from a total perspective of the history of life on Earth. As I understand it there have been extinction events in the past which eradicated 98% of all life on Earth, and that all life today is descended from the 2% that made it. And yet we live in a world of unimaginable biodiversity, all descended from that meagre 2%. Nature finds a way to go on. Whether mankind will is of course another debate entirely, and for all manner of reasons aside from the 'messing in our own back yard' argument.
    In short I believe the assertion that we are living in an extinction event is disputable, and even more so that it is of our own making, and that the quoted decrease in biodiversity is in anyway linked to this asserted event.
    Such events have happened in the past of course, which were obviously not caused by us, and that being the case then, what arrogance is it of man's to believe that we are either a contributor to, or possess the power to avert such events when they occur?
    • Apr 4 2013: What points can you make that bring you to your skepticism?
    • thumb
      Apr 6 2013: The question of whether we are in a mass extinction event is contentious, but mostly for political reasons. It is not a question of whether its happening, or whether we cause it, it is a question of how much extinction qualifies a time period as being an "extinction event".

      When considering this we have to remember that industrialization is still only a blink of an eye in geological time frames and we can only truly understand how much extinction we have caused after we have reached some sort of equilibrium with the ecosystem and the extinctions return to a normal level.
  • thumb
    Apr 3 2013: Beyond a few particular examples, what evidence can you submit that we are responsible for the extinction event at large?
    • Apr 3 2013: Well there is plenty of literature about it. I wonder do you have any evidence that the extinction event at large is not human induced?
      • thumb
        Apr 4 2013: The burden of proof is on you, Brian. Please cite a report claiming that the extinction event is anthropic in nature.
      • thumb
        Apr 4 2013: Yes, I do doubt that it's anthropic. The sources you cited either do not state the source is anthropic, or that the cause is global warming, for which there is also sketchy and conflicting evidence for an anthropic cause.
        • Apr 4 2013: Clearly you have not spent much time looking at the material. Global warming is not the main point on any of those.

          Do you believe species can survive habitat loss, invasive species, pollution, habitat alteration, exploitive hunting/fishing?
        • Apr 4 2013: You still haven't answered LJ's question, BR.

          What credible sources can you show that cite this supposed extinction event is anthropic?
      • thumb
        Apr 4 2013: I do not think the burden of proof is on you Brian, at least no more than the burden of proof is on the contrarians who maintain 'business as usual' is what we should follow. I get comments like what you got when I mention planetary boundaries and Johan Rockstrom's work on that. Humans are a single species and there are only bacteria more populous than humans on earth. Some 20 years ago, as a single species it was appropriating close to 40 % of ALL global photosynthetic produce.

        I think fish don't discuss about the water they swim in.
        • Apr 4 2013: Bacteria are NOT the only species to outnumber humans.
          Ants and termites, to name just 2 invertebrates account for c.3500M tons of biomass alone
          Not to mention krill, marine fish, chickens...........
  • thumb
    Apr 3 2013: All successful species become successful to the detriment of other species. It's called evolution. At some stage in the future an as yet unknown species will become successful at our expense.
    • Apr 4 2013: No species in its natural habitat drives another species to extinction. Have any examples?
      Invasive species are a different story.

      Your line of argument excuses our guiltiness for massive species loss because other species (creatures that don't have close to the mental faculties as humans) do it naturally like evolution?
      • thumb
        Apr 4 2013: All the plants and animals we only know from fossils were driven to extinction by other species who either competed with or predated on them. Remember when we say a species evolved into a new species what we really mean is that the offspring of one individual had an advantage over the rest of the species. The new species evolves by causing the extinction of the old species.
        • Apr 4 2013: There is a natural background extinction rate. I am guessin this is what you are talking about.

          Humans have caused an extinction rate many times the natural background. Habitat loss, introduction of species to ecosystems, over consumption, ecosystem alteration, and arguably climate change are all human induced species loss.
      • thumb
        Apr 4 2013: The natural background rate varies considerably and is much higher then you think. When the first photosynthetic organisms started spewing oxygen into the atmosphere and hydrosphere, what do you think the extinction rate was for species of anaerobic bacteria that dominated at the time. When flowering plants first appeared what happened to all the gymnosperms and ferns that used to populate the worlds forrests? How many species of insect became extinct after the amphibians crawlled out of the swamp?
        • Apr 4 2013: You have good examples of some species inadvertently gaining advantage over others and replacing them.

          There has never been anything like what is happening today. Unless there is evidence that one species has driven to extinction many on every continent of the world.
      • Apr 4 2013: what do u mean? we do. what do you think your not in your natural habitat?theres only predator and prey.
        • Apr 4 2013: I would like to see some evidence of any other predator that prevents other species from survival so that their species can gain access to food or other.
      • Apr 4 2013: usually ,that species is the food and sometimes they get eatin to extinction. im sure your aware of that.
        • Apr 6 2013: Of course humans are in their natural habitat. The question is is our activities and exploitation of other species "natural." I contend that one culture that today nearly dominates the globe put us in the very unnatural relationship we have today with the rest of life on earth.
      • Apr 6 2013: I thi nk what comes to mind is harmony, cause evrrything thing that's happening right now in the universe is the natural order of is a part of nature.humans aren't above or below that. but you are correct. I remember watching a special on this species of ocean creature called"crown of thorns" . theyve had a cycle for thousands of years most likely,pf eating parts of the barrier reef leaving and by therenext return the reef had ample time to regrow the part that was eaten.due to rain washing the nutrients and supplements for "beefier" crops into the sea,it turned the crown of thorns into Eating machines that actually threaten the barrier reefes existance in the long run. very delicate the balance of nature is.
  • Apr 3 2013: I, and several of my friends, make it a point to inform, not only children but adults too about the extinction of various species & the impact it will have on all of us. We start out with Phytoplankton & go right up the food chain. The students are very attentive when we talk & they ask great questions, but then go right back to their daily lives without another thought about what we said.
    Sadly, humans are concerned with only their lives & not the other species that make up the circle of life. Humans stepped out of that circle a long time ago. Greed is their flag and human DNA must have it hardwired in it.
    There will come a time very soon, when folks will wonder what went wrong! It will be far too late by then. And maybe that is as it should be. The earth will heal quite well without us.
    • Apr 3 2013: I hope that it is not in our genes but rather a cultural belief system that drives us to acquire more and more without caring about the consequences.
      • Apr 3 2013: Ever since humans fell out of the trees-Greed has been a leading force.
        When something has been around for that long, Our DNA imprints on it in varying degrees.
  • Apr 4 2013: if we dont change ways it will be detramental to our own existance. pull out the gasmasks , its gonna be lookin like soilant green wishing u could eat a strawberry!....nah.......seriously though.
  • thumb
    Apr 4 2013: Materialism and entertainment is taking too much space.
    I'm glad that entertainment is booming (if not, how would I earn a living?)
    Production capacity and practices that causes environmental degradation are responsible for most of the extinction.

    It is hard to compete against money, especially so much of it; that is why so many people dont care, and the people who care dont seem to matter.
    More should be done in terms of raising awareness about practices that are harmful to the ecosystem.
    I think children should the taught the basics of taking care of the environment, but they should not be burdened by the details of how terrible things are or could be.
  • thumb
    Apr 3 2013: This would be different in different geographic locations, but where I live, this subject is a focus of study at various points in grade school (timely, particularly as kids almost always seem to care deeply about animals) and in high school biology. It was not part of the curriculum for my son in middle school.
    • Apr 3 2013: I remember in middle school a biologist who had traveled to the Amazon showed our class pictures of the rainforest destruction. It shook my world view. From there on I was curious about the impacts humans were having on the environment.
      • thumb
        Apr 3 2013: My son became passionate about Amazon rainforest preservation when he was younger than that, and it has stuck with him.
  • Apr 3 2013: No,I don't think children really know we are living in an extinction event caused mostly by us.By the way I think it should be adults know well it in advance.Children needn't u to teach,they always can learn fast from adults.
  • thumb
    Apr 3 2013: I totally agree with you. It's not only that species are declining due to over exploitation, they are declining due to a massive fall in the carrying capacity of our planet.

    Kids know the planet is in difficulty, but they easily go into denial - after all the problem appears too big to deal with and the problems are not always that obvious within their lives - unless they happen to be impacted in some way.

    In one lifetime it is not always possible to see the steady environmental degradation. This is why TV is so important. The back catalogue of anthropological and natural history programmes are a huge resource for baseline research. One example springs to mind - Lake Nakuru in Kenya used to support hundreds of thousand of pink Flamingos - today the flocks have declined considerably, but without film evidence people would not believe their decline. The same is true of human diversity - in a globally linked world humanity is becoming homogeneous.

    The only way forward is to drastically reduce the human population. In my life it's doubled, from 3.5 billion to 7 billion. How can we do this?
  • Apr 3 2013: People are walking around in the slumber and stupor
    that comes from being brainwashed.
    They are mental robots, rendered into a condition of artificial intelligence.
    They not only do not want the truth, they can no longer recognize it.
    And, they worship lies which reveals a serious split from reality.
    They want lies more than anything else. Certainly more than the truth.

    They are now Manchurian Citizens who vote for Manchurian Candidates.
    When these humans reach the point where fixing something or keeping it the way it is
    and making a profit is their choice, they will blindly, while in that stupor, choose profit.

    The main effect of brainwashing is a dulled ability to reason.
    The second main effect is an impeded ability to act. (to act upon learning the truth, seeing the truth, hearing the truth,
    reading the truth or even experiencing the truth.)

    The first effect is why those in the U.S. are virtually slapped right in the face with lies, out-in-the-open corruption, blatant breaking of laws and the Constitution while falsely, wrongly and even secretly passing new laws that only benefit those in power, destroying the people's options to help themselves, stealing their liberties, their money, their privacy, their sense of safety, fighting so hard to take away their right to bear arms and defend themselves, warrantless searches, GPS tracking, well the list goes on more than the allotment of 2000 characters, while demonizing others and threatening those they rule over with more lies, AND THE PEOPLE DO NOTHING!

    Oh, they might say, "I can't believe they are doing this!"
    Yes, a dulled ability to reason and an impeded ability to act.
    Action is what is needed now, immediately and continually until the people win.
    • Apr 3 2013: It's hard to get a person to look outside of their own life to make a difference let alone another species. I'm pessismistic about our resolve
  • thumb
    Apr 3 2013: .
    They don't
    or don't believe it
    because they don't know "be happy validly".

    (For details, see the 1st article, points 1-3, 14, at
  • Apr 3 2013: No - it is mentioned all the time, but people try to avoid dwelling on bad news. What can we do? The people who don't care can always divert and mislead us. Misdirection is the key to magic.
    • thumb
      Apr 3 2013: .
      And "invalid" happiness is the key to "Misdirection".
      (See ibid just above)
      • Apr 4 2013: I am not disagreeing I think. I am just saying that some selfish people mislead and misdirect us through advertising and propaganda. This is becoming a real problem in America. Maybe it always has been, but it is becoming obvious.