The Holocene Extinction

A threat unknown to many: Holocene Extinction


While people remain occupied with everyday life—political and economic crises, entertainment and conspiracy theories—an event has been transpiring that is so important and vital for humanity, yet no one has been paying attention to it. The Holocene extinction is a term used to describe the on-going extinction of numerous animal species due to human activity.

Throughout the history of evolution, big catastrophes (such as meteorite impacts) have altered the Earth’s surface causing surviving life to reorganize and evolve. Earth has been through five such major extinction events in the past 400 million years, and each one wiped out 50 to 95% of life on Earth. Research has shown that it takes 10 million years before life approaches the diversity of species that it knew before the extinction.

Today we are going through the sixth extinction phase, the Holocene extinction, named for the geologic period which began 12,000 years ago and continues today. The scientific community first discovered this extinction crisis in the 1970’s, and it marks the first time one species—humans—are responsible for the mass extinction of thousands of other species. Research shows the extinction rate in the 21 st century has dramatically increased: more than 27,000 species are disappearing each year, a number larger than any other period of time in the last 10,000 years.

Human activity is altering the natural environment with destructive consequences for numerous animal species. The causes range from historical activities such as killing animals for food and clothing—that have escalated drastically due to human overpopulation and overexploitation, to the direct destruction of natural environments for human use, such as drying out wetlands and diverting rivers. Of course, all of this also contributes to climate change, which is also a contributing factor.

In his book “ The Future of Life ”, Professor Edward O. Wilson of Harvard University has calculated that at the current pace, the rate of extinction might reach 20% by 2022, and could rise to more than 50% by 2100. In a poll conducted by the American Museum of Natural History more than 70% of biologists believe that we are in route to an anthropogenic extinction.

Less than 10% of the species on Earth are currently known to science, and less than 1% of those have been studied. We are essentially involved in genocide of such extent as to threaten all life on Earth. What would the result of such an event be? The balance of ecosystems is certainly being threatened, and all of this will have an immediate impact on humanity. We are, as humans, dependent on nature, and without this balance the changes will be so dramatic that we cannot even imagine.

By John Black

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