If you have the patience and do like animals, here’s a brief compound quote of "Evolution Lost", a study recently published by the Zoological Society of London and passed on to me by Earth-Touch. It talks about the extinction of species. As it is said in the text, "The story that emerges is not a happy one." Man, that’s an absolute understatement probably due to the scientific – and hence cold-bloodedly analytic – nature of the paper.
"The hominin lineage, represented today only by our own species Homo sapiens, diverged from the great apes approximately six million years ago; our genus originated in Africa over two million years ago, and our species appeared approximately 200,000 years ago.
Population growth rates of Homo sapiens remained relatively low until the Industrial Revolution, at which point the human population boomed with a maximum growth rate
of 2.2% per year in the early 1960s. This rate has since decreased, but approximately 75 million humans are being added to this already overpopulated planet each year. In one week, Homo sapiens are adding more individuals to the planet then the total population of all the other great apes combined.
This rapid human expansion and increased use of resources has had an unprecedented impact on the rest of the world’s species and ecosystems, with the result that almost roughly one-fifth of the world’s vertebrates and plants are now threatened with extinction. Ironically, our closest relatives are now some of the most threatened, with all the great apes (bonobos, chimpanzees, gorillas and orang-utans), classified as either Critically Endangered or Endangered.
While extinction of species is a natural process, the present day rate of extinction is extremely high and far outpaces the current rate of speciation. By comparing current and background extinction rates, we can confidently predict we are heading for the next mass extinction. This time, humans
are the perpetrators – yet only we have the ability to reverse the loss of species and destruction of ecosystems.
Compared to the background rate of extinction, which is the average extinction rate found in the fossil record, extinctions have increased to between 100 and 1,000 times greater than the rate they were in the distant past. It is believed that future extinction rates will be 10-100 times what they are today. The main causes of extinctions across all groups include habitat loss or degradation, primarily driven by agricultural development and logging, followed by invasive species and human overexploitation. The impact of climate change is now beginning to be felt by many species groups. Climate change will likely be the greatest driver of extinction this century, with an estimate of 25% of all species committed to extinction by 2050.
… How many lineages can we afford to lose before there are major implications for humanity? No-one knows for certain as the ecology of the earth is extremely complicated, but we do know that species are the building blocks of ecosystems and that functioning ecosystems are essential for human survival. One area where the balance between biodiversity and human well-being is likely to become more evident is in the delicate relationship between biodiversity and food security, especially as we near 2050 when the earth will need to provide food for an estimated 9.2 billion people.
Our first priority in addressing the extinction crisis will have to be to conserve the ecosystem services that we need for our survival. The oceans and forests provide vital ecosystem services, replenishing the oxygen we need to live, regulating our climate, providing essential food resources and storing carbon. However, we also have to ensure that the great diversity of vertebrates which has taken millions of years to evolve is not lost in the next few decades. Increasing conservation efforts will be a fundamental step in reversing declines, but little will change if, as a society, we cannot address population growth, overconsumption and poor governance.
We no longer have time to avoid the facts or talk in half measures – we need to rapidly move towards governance structures and economic systems that encourage the sustainable management of Earth’s limited resources. If this is not achieved, nature will find its own balance with unthinkable consequences for all species, including humans."
Zoological Society of London
The very interesting full document is available here as a pdf on the ZSL web site. But as a digression, my own question to the ZSL is this: When do we start addressing the extinction of Homo sapiens? Should we put him/her/it in a cage? Or is that being done already?
For all we know, Barjavel and many other sci-fi authors were right and mankind is already being sampled and archived with the highest secrecy, frozen or alive, knowingly or not, in order to preserve it from its own evil should the end come sooner than expected.
But then, who decides of the samples’ quality and pertinence? Is A better than B for preferring Mozart to Eminem? Would Ansel Adams win over Vincent Laforet? Does an AIDS patient introduce liability or an opportunity to resume and finally win a long battle?
In the end, do we want to make it as individuals, as a society or as a specie? Sadly, I would say that those in power who will make the call are likely to belong to the former group. Me, I’m in the middle. An evolved specie is only worth preserving if it manages to behave cohesively and socialize peacefully.
In all honesty, they aren’t likely to pick me as a specimen. I would go on a rampage aboard the Arch. Having the survivors go straight to exterminating each other kind of defeats the purpose, doesn’t it?
Vince? Yeah, he’s a nut case. Hated ticks before they were extinct, and now that we brought them back in a new world, he goes around chanting that "A good tick is an extinct tick."
So I’ll sit here and watch them take off in their shiny spaceships, and I’ll wait for doom to come, because after all I was part of its raising and I did nothing to prevent it, even when the alarm bells became so loud that I had to stick my head in the ground to avoid them.
But fear not, they will have saved some ostriches and someone aboard those spaceships should figure out why we imitate them so well.