We have been handed over the memo already. No lights spark up, and no joy spills out when we acknowledge- we are in the middle of a mass extinction now, and we, humans, as a species, are the ones to blame. For the uninitiated, yes, the Earth is going through an extinction event, the impact of which might bring forth similar kinds of results Dinosaurs experienced 65 million years ago. Some species are already on the verge of becoming extinct; most of the other endangered species are also in an unfavorable position. Scientists argue that if this phenomenon continues at this current rate, one-half of the world’s fauna will bid the Earth adieu within 2100. But the scariest part does not end there. This mass extinction event will not be limited to other species. Many paleontologists and scientists argue that as humans are a part of this ecology, any harm inflicted upon the biodiversity would eventually haunt the human race in the future. But the extinction event propelled by humans is pushing the very humans towards the cliff of extinction? Let’s find out.
First, we should be more familiar with the theory of Holocene Extinction, or commonly known as the Anthropocene extinction event. Anthropocene originated from the Greek terms Anthropos, which means “men,” and cene, which means “new.” Generally, the timeline of Earth is sectioned into different geological time scales. The geologic time scale arranges Earth’s history into a sequential progression of time. The latest era or “epoch” that we currently live in is commonly referred to as the Holocene. But as the era of humans features some genuinely exceptional features that never occurred in Earth’s 4.5 billion years old history, some scientists think it is justified to term this era separately from the rest. Humans have existed on the face of the Earth for the last 200,00 years. Though the number seems much larger on paper, from a more comprehensive perspective, the actual age of humans is at a tiny 0.01% of the Earth’s entire timeline. Yet, within this insignificant duration, humans caused some unprecedented changes, some of which are irreversible and predominantly contribute towards the extinction of the species.
Despite these alarming figures and facts, not many people seem to comprehend the gravity of the danger. A typical nonchalance prevails whenever the topic of a species of frog or bat dying out surfaces. Humans are primarily nearsighted creatures, driven by monetary gains and emotions. Hence the sheer ignorance towards the probability of our doomsday seems plausible. But get this, this attitude is going to harm us manifold. With each species getting erased from the face of the Earth, the planet loses one of its most primary features that nurtures the very atmosphere that allows life to thrive- biodiversity. The floras and faunas of the planet are interdependent, and each of them plays an important role in maintaining the balance of the ecosystem. The more marginalized a species becomes, the harder it gets for the biodiversity to restore the balance, which directly impacts the other species. Due to their habitat destruction, possum populations in the United States have been declining steadily for a few decades. The possum is impervious to the parasites that cause Lyme disease, and they are also the fiercest enemies of the white-footed mice, a common host of the ticks that carry Lyme disease. In the absence of the possums, the number of mice increased exponentially, and soon some parts of the country faced a roughly 30% increase in the cases of Lyme disease. It would be foolish on our part to think of this event as an outlier, as studies estimate that there are going to be five new emerging diseases affecting people every year. Other incidents such as the West Nile virus, the hantavirus, and several others can prove this phenomenon true. The outbreaks of these diseases in certain parts can be attributed largely to the shrinking biodiversity.
All of these were common knowledge when the pandemic hit in early 2020. The wet market in Wuhan gave birth to the worst pandemic in the history of the industrialized and urbanized era. It is suspected that the transmission of the virus occurred from bats, a species known for hosting the genre of viruses closely related to SARS-CoV-2. The same situation can happen if we continue to destroy other lifeforms’ habitats and natural lifecycle. There are many animals that act as barriers between people and potentially lethal viruses. The disappearance of those animals would directly result in the rise in diseases and other pathogens.
The solutions to these problems are so straightforward that people find them almost clichés. “Save nature” has been the go-to slogan for many organizations across the globe. And to be frank, the actions of those establishments do not corroborate the catchphrases they preach. The sheer incompetence of legislation, government bodies, and mass awareness are responsible for our situation. The extinction rate is between ten and 10,000 times higher than the background rate (background rate indicates how fast species would be expected to disappear in the absence of human endeavor). More than 300 animal and 1,000 plant species are now considered threatened with imminent extinction, and the rate is only going to get higher with modern practices. To reverse this, all it needs is a little conscience and conscious effort on our part. Simple measurements such as prioritizing nature for all ventures, reducing the release of harmful elements, restoring ecosystems, and building safe zones- these steps may not be comprehensive, but they can definitely cause some motivating changes in protecting the endangered species.