Where we've been
In the past, the world has managed to control its own natural cycles and biodiversity levels. The problem is that humans have thrown in such a new and interesting variable that nature has not caught up with us. We have throughout our history been slowly decoupling from nature, trying to harness it for our own benefits, building urban centers and farms, cutting down trees for energy. This has been adding a new element, just like when any species expands, into the grand equation of nature. The problem is that within the last couple hundred years, we have been causing bigger changes more rapidly as cities and economies expand, the demand for resources has skyrocketed, and we have stopped really taking nature into account in our decisions.
When faced with a challenge, we have a history of rising up to it
We have had some success protecting plants, animals, and spaces before. But now we have to to work on a larger scale than we ever have.
Within the last twenty years even, we have lost about a half dozen animal species and a few plant species to permanent extinction
. And that doesn't include the smaller or undocumented living things that may have been lost or those with only a few individuals left that are soon to likely be lost. The extinction rate is estimated to be 1000 times higher
than the expected normal rate (also called the background rate) as a result of human influences.
The good news is that we have some experience making a mess of the world and then cleaning it up. We are definitely winning the wars against acid rain and ozone depletion. There has been some progress made on conserving a number of spaces and species. When Bald Eagles were on the brink of extinction, the pesticide harming them was banned. When natural spaces around the world were being raided for their resources, international agencies found ways to allow municipalities to protect them. When faced with a challenge, we have a history of rising up to it. It's time to do that again.
Even more: News
and the FAQ
The Extinction Website
Website documenting recent and historical extinctions.Click now to view
TIME Magazine - The New Age of Extinction
Article on the dangers and problems associated with the current extinction rate. Published in the April 13, 2009 print edition.Click now to view