Our planet is now in the midst of its sixth mass extinction of plants and animals, the sixth wave of extinctions in the past half-billion years. We’re currently experiencing the worst episode of species die-offs since the loss of the dinosaurs 65 million years ago. Although extinction is a natural phenomenon, it occurs at a natural “background” rate of about one to five species per year. Scientists estimate we’re now losing species at 1,000 to 10,000 times the background rate, with literally dozens of species going extinct every day. Scientist also speculate that as many as 30 to 50 percent of all species could be heading toward extinction by the mid-century 21st.
Unlike past mass extinctions, caused by events like asteroid strikes, volcanic eruptions, and natural climate shifts, the current crisis is almost entirely caused by humans. In fact, 99 percent of currently threatened species are at risk from human activities, primarily those driving habitat loss, introduction of exotic species, and that induce climate change through global warming. Because the rate of change in our biosphere is increasing, and because every species’ extinction potentially leads to the extinction of others bound to that species in a complex ecological web, numbers of extinctions are likely to snowball in the coming decades as ecosystems unravel.
The study of human interactions with the natural world makes for interesting subject matter as homo sapiens sit atop the food chain and have thus been granted dominion over the animal kingdom. This unique position bestows the human race with the responsibility of care taker to the natural world and makes homo sapiens extremely unique relevant to other living species on the planet. More specifically, the human ability to reflect, rationalize, and decipher is what sets us apart from the animal kingdom. The scientific evidence noted above would suggest that humans are not exercising sound judgement in regard to consumption based behaviors and our interactions with the natural world. It is important to be reminded that human actions and decisions regarding the consumption of natural resources and living animals can and does have lasting and permanent effects on the health and vitality of animal kingdom. This series is a study of the physical and psychological space that the animal world occupies in the human psyche.
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No author, Center for Biological Diversity (2014). The Extinction Crisis. Retrieved from: www.biologicaldiversity.org