Photo by karnal panic | flickr.com

Think mass extinctions are just catastrophic things of the past?  Think again – quick – before our species disappears.

Five major extinction events have occurred on Earth over a time span of 540 million years.  The difference between these phenomena and a potential upcoming mass extinction? What, or who is to blame, according to Discovery News.

Historically, mass extinctions occurred naturally as environments changed over time.  Causes include climatic cycles and adjustments, varying interactions between species, and of course, firestorms and other effects of asteroid impacts.  The major difference between then and now is that human activities are bringing us closer and closer to a highly predicted mass extinction event – one that may be a lingering concern solely due to our modern day lifestyles. 

The way we fish, the way we hunt, the way we use energy – the list continues – may be to blame for a possible mass extinction as soon as three centuries from now.  There is no mention of Homo sapiens disappearing anytime soon; however, it is predicted that about 76% of currently existing species are at risk of becoming extinct. According to the number of critically endangered and critically threatened species on the planet, a lack of worldwide conservation could make this almost unimaginable and farfetched concept a reality.

Post-extinction biodiversity recovery will not occur within a period of time significant to humans, either.  This means that settling on a plan to try to ‘recreate biodiversity’ after the inevitable extinction event occurs will accomplish little, if anything at all.

So, what can we do to prevent a mass extinction from occurring (or delay it for as long as possible)?  The truth is, most of the damage has already been done.  Unless we put greater effort into conserving land for these endangered and threatened species, putting emphasis on relevant laws and legislation, and modifying our actions to allow biodiversity to once again expand, we can count on much of what lives now to not be around for much longer.  To put everything in perspective, humans could potentially eliminate all existing biodiversity in only a thousand years.  That’s somewhere between 15 to 30 million species!  If that scares you as much as it scares me, be sure to take the steps necessary to lessen your impact on the planet to allow all things – big and small – to thrive in this finite world.  

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AuthorMandy McDougall