Posted by: Dan | September 13, 2007

Keeping Tabs on Mass Extinction

The 2007 Red List is out with the hard number crunching on our mass extinction in-progress.

16,306 of 41,415 species on the IUCN Red List are threatened with extinction, reports the World Conservation Union (IUCN). The total number of known extinct species now stands at 785, while a further 65 are only found in captivity or in cultivation. One in four mammals, one in eight birds, one third of all amphibians and 70% of the world’s assessed plants on the 2007 IUCN Red List are considered at risk.

While the mechanisms and potentials for mitigation are not well understood, we can generally classify the underlying cause as the rapid changing of the entire surface of our Earth, both land and sea. The Earth has faced such a pace of change (and destruction) on such a scale very few times in its entire history, and ecosystems cannot hope to keep pace.

Massive overpopulation is at the bottom of this problem, and there is no easy solution. H. sapiens has simply become too successful a species for its own good. Which is why I think it must be an awfully depressing career choice to become an ecologist or conservationist – it appears perpetually full of depressing news and poor prognoses; always fighting a losing battle.

Sure, the biosphere will go on, but in what condition? Why do we need to rid the world of so much beauty?.. because that’s what life is: beautiful.

Two interesting books for more perspective:

  • Weisman, Alan (2007) The World Without Us.
  • Wilson, Edward O. (2002) The Future of Life.

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