Opinion

Opinion: The sixth mass extinction is coming for us

Will humans become one of the species to eventually go extinct in this collapse of our planet’s biodiversity? Are we the next dinosaurs?
<a href="https://highschool.latimes.com/author/clumsykiwii/" target="_self">Kira Zeng</a>

Kira Zeng

July 20, 2022
The world’s sixth mass extinction is already underway, as reported by ENAS. 

To put it simply, mass extinction is when species vanish much faster than they are being replaced, according to The Conversation. There have been five great mass extinctions on Earth, but this sixth one differs from the previous ones.  

The “normal” rate of species loss is usually about 1 species extinction per million years. Researchers from the University of Cincinnati estimate that today’s extinction rate is about 100 times higher than the “normal” rate, according to research published by The Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

The Cretaceous-Tertiary extinction, the fifth mass extinction which occurred around 65 million years ago, lasted about 1-2.5 million years, and it is estimated that about 75% of living species were wiped out during that period. The number of species that have already gone extinct in the past century normally would have taken 800-1000 years or more. 

A new study published by PNAS found that rising temperatures have disrupted many wildlife habitats, as evidenced by ice caps melting faster due to worsening climate change by human activities that have caused several of Earth’s species to die off in the past century. They have found that more than 500 land species are expected to die in the next decades, being sped up by human activities.

Rather than taking about a thousand years, it is only taking about the length of a single human lifespan for comparable changes to occur — which is really disturbing. The current ongoing mass extinction will be the most serious environmental crisis for the human population as thousands of species could be lost within a lifespan instead of thousands or millions of years.

This is mind-blowing information because it predicts catastrophic consequences on our natural ecosystems as life is thrown off balance. Since life on Earth depends on diversity to sustain itself, the extinction of one species will affect other species, as they are interconnected in the ecosystem, which will foster more extinctions, resulting in a snowball effect.

Will humans become one of the species to eventually go extinct in this collapse of our planet’s biodiversity? Are we the next dinosaurs?

Despite numerous talks between world leaders about combating climate change, the world is still on track to reaching dangerous heat levels that will drastically impact our wildlife, with temperatures rising by more than 2.4 C by the end of this century, according to The Guardian.

Fortunately, there are still many steps citizens can take to drastically reduce the potent effects of climate change, such as powering your home with solar energy and driving electric vehicles, according to the National Resources Defense Council. Scientists have confirmed that even these seemingly small actions can reduce catastrophic heating of the planet and save our wildlife in the long run, which will save us. 

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