The Sixth ExtinctionThe Sixth Extinction
Kenneth J. McCormick
Throughout the history of the world there have been many extinctions. Nature has a way of getting rid of life that it deems no longer useful. The dinosaurs no longer fit in so they were completely removed. When you think about it, you wonder how come some species didn't survive. For every last one of them to be wiped off the face of the Earth was almost as if it was planned that way. If they would have survived, maybe we wouldn't be here today, or maybe we would be hiding in caves somewhere, hoping to avoid being eaten. The Saber Toothed Tiger and Mammoth were only one member of their family tree when they were wiped out. This extinction was far more selective than the one that wiped out the dinos. Some animals did survive from that era that weren't dinosaurs. The crocodile is a prime example of this, although it seems to have been somewhat shrunken down in size, it's still pretty big.
There is no doubt that the dinosaurs were rulers of the Earth in their time, as we are today. Will we also be subject to some form of extinction in the future?
As harsh as nature has been in these matters, man is worse. Many people believe we are in the middle of the greatest mass extinction of all times and it isn't caused by nature but by man. Man with his chemicals, toxic emissions and land grabbing tactics. If I said to you that I had an invention that we could all utilize, but it would have a cost to run and that cost would be that it would dump thousands of tons of gases into the atmosphere, the air that we breathe, would you say this was a good idea? Probably not, but this is just what we do. Our cars, trains and planes dump their deadly loads into our air while our factories exhaust their fumes along with them. Our farms send toxic fertilizers and pesticides into our water as do our garbage dumps. We don't even have any way of knowing what our military is getting rid of by burying or burning. We are in sad shape indeed and yet we wonder why the animals and plants are dying. We bury radioactive waste that stays radioactive for 240,000 years and expect it not to affect anything in the future when we know that we have to find a way to make it non radioactive before we get rid of it. What kind of people are we?
Right now species are disappearing at a rate that is faster than ever before. If you check with anyone in the government they will tell you this is caused by global warming and holes in the ozone layer. Many people feel that this has no bearing on their daily life so they really don't care, or figure that they can't do anything about this anyway. But it will affect future generations and we can't be selfish. One in eight plants is in danger of becoming extinct. These are plants that people depend upon. We may loose certain plants that are responsible for producing much needed drugs. Everything on Earth is linked together somehow. The disappearance of a certain plant may effect the life of an insect that controls pests that eat crops or insects that carry diseases. Even worse than the plants disappearing is the fact that up to 20% of every type of animal alive today may not be here in 30 years or less. I find this fact very unnerving, do you? But while 70% of biologists that were interviewed believe this, 30% did not. You have to wonder why those 30% didn't feel this was true when evidence of extinction is all around us? The ones that did believe this all said about the same thing, that man was causing this in one way or another. Who knows, man may be the first animal that will be responsible for making himself extinct.
There have been mass extinctions before, but it is believed that this has only happened five other times. An author of an article once described man as an 'exterminator species'. If you look at man's record it is hard not to agree with this. At the end of 2003 the endangered wildlife list contained over 12,000 animal species. Plants in Hawaii have been devastated along with many plants in other locations around the world. The most threatened areas for birds and mammals are Indonesia, China, Brazil, Peru and India while plants are fairing the worst in Ecuador, Sri Lanka, Indonesia, Brazil and Malaysia.
A study conducted in Britain showed that in the last 20 years over 70% of the Butterfly species have declined considerably. But it doesn't end there, 54% of bird species and 28% of plant species are also declining.
Is this what happens when one form of life becomes dominant? Would we be experiencing a similar event if one type of animal became dominant? I am not saying that animals would develop industry, what I am asking is would the dominance of one species cause the extinction of others? Some may argue that no life form should ever be dominant, I don't buy this argument, but if it were true than I guess there might not be an extinction on this scale going on right now.
Will this beautiful Earth of ours look like something out of a Mad Max movie someday? I sure hope not. Can you imagine the Earth as an arid almost lifeless place where humans have somehow discovered how to survive without most of the animals and plants that we enjoy now. A place where it becomes a major event to see a squirrel trying to find a tree. I say squirrel because somehow these creatures have a way of surviving in the most unfriendly areas such as urban rows of houses with only a few trees here and there. Will a flower be something so special that it will cost a considerable amount of money to buy and people may have to decide between it or a car? Its time we became aware of what is happening around us and try to do something about it.
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About the author:
Ken is the webmaster of About Facts Net, an interesting, free Internet Magazine. The magazine is suitable for the entire family and many of the articles are accompanied by photographs, video and/or audio.