Planet Earth is dying all around us on a scale not seen since the annihilation of the dinosaurs.
That’s the alarming finding of a new study on extinction rates recently published in Science Advances, which has estimated the Earth’s biodiversity is very likely being eradicated at a pace not seen in at least 65 million years. The research suggests the planet is currently undergoing the sixth mass extinction event in its 3.5-billion-year history of life.
This is a crisis: According to the authors, Earth’s ecosphere is on the precipice of an epoch on the scale of the Cretaceous-Palogene extinction event, when scientists believe an asteroid impact wiped out at least 75% of all existing species on the planet.
The research team compared modern and historical estimates of extinction rates and estimated ongoing vertebrate die-off is happening at between eight to 100 times or more the natural rate of species loss. Study co-author and Stanford University biology professor Paul Ehrlich told Mic via e-mail the principle culprits were human “reproduction, consumption in general and especially agriculture, leading to habitat destruction, burning of fossil fuels [and] spreading of toxic chemicals.”
It’s happening rapidly. The researchers concluded the mammal and vertebrate extinctions of the past century alone would match somewhere between 800 and 10,000 years of extinctions without human acceleration.
Without finding some way to reverse our unsustainable use of the world’s resources, humanity could soon be living on a planet stripped of much of its biodiversity — and that’s not even considering the potentially devastating effects of global climate change, which has only recently started to really kick into gear. Humanity, hold onto your butts. It’s going to be a bumpy ride.