Earth faces sixth ‘great extinction’ with 41% of amphibians set to go the way of the dodo

Dec 15, 2014

Photograph: Paul Popper/Popperfoto/Popperfoto/Getty Images

By Robin McKie

A stark depiction of the threat hanging over the world’s mammals, reptiles, amphibians and other life forms has been published by the prestigious scientific journal, Nature. A special analysis carried out by the journal indicates that a staggering 41% of all amphibians on the planet now face extinction while 26% of mammal species and 13% of birds are similarly threatened.

Many species are already critically endangered and close to extinction, including the Sumatran elephant, Amur leopard and mountain gorilla. But also in danger of vanishing from the wild, it now appears, are animals that are currently rated as merely being endangered: bonobos, bluefin tuna and loggerhead turtles, for example.

In each case, the finger of blame points directly at human activities. The continuing spread of agriculture is destroying millions of hectares of wild habitats every year, leaving animals without homes, while the introduction of invasive species, often helped by humans, is also devastating native populations. At the same time, pollution and overfishing are destroying marine ecosystems.

“Habitat destruction, pollution or overfishing either kills off wild creatures and plants or leaves them badly weakened,” said Derek Tittensor, a marine ecologist at the World Conservation Monitoring Centre in Cambridge. “The trouble is that in coming decades, the additional threat of worsening climate change will become more and more pronounced and could then kill off these survivors.”


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20 comments on “Earth faces sixth ‘great extinction’ with 41% of amphibians set to go the way of the dodo

  • Being a human is a bit like admitting to being a species Nazi.

    We do this for the most trivial financial benefits, totally ignoring the negative consequences, even to our future prosperity.

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  • That magnificent creature in the photograph is a Thylacine. A Tasmanian Tiger. Now extinct. It was a marsupial predator. A desperately rare evolutionary creation. The top predator on the island of Tasmania just below Australia. Totally unique. Beautiful creature. It was killed off because it was accused (Wrongly later research found) of killing of the white settlers sheep. The reason this animal went extinct was so a human could make some short term money. The reason most of the animals cited in the study are going to go extinct is so someone can make some short term money. This is an immoral position.

    And as I cite ad nauseum in these forums, there would be no extinctions of these animals if there were only around a billion people on the planet. Room for everyone. Everyone gets a share of the environment. We’re just another animal and IMHO, our rights to exist should not impact on another animals right to exist. Again, an immoral position. And what compounds our immorality and guilt, is we know better, and we choose not to act.

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  • 4
    Promethean Entity says:

    Earth faces sixth ‘great extinction’ with 41% of amphibians set to go the way of the dodo = another capitalist success story.

    Note the sarcasm.

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  • There’s a praticularly unsettling plot in Nature’s review, which shows that, basically, 98% of what is driving a mass of species extinct is reconducible to human activities… And whenever I read such things, I can’t help but thinking about the Lotka-Volterra equations (I already talked about this in one of my first comments on this site), with us in the role of the predator and Earth’s resources in the role of prey. We seem to be pushing further and further away from the equilibriom, and that’s just a suicide mission.

    Given the path we, as a species, are on right now, I don’t think is unlikely that we’re gonna have to list ourselves in the endangered species index, in another couple of centuries…

    And the most outrageous aspect of the issue is that the first reason why we are on this idiotic path is not because of any real survival necessity: it’s because of a petty handful of money. This is deeply immoral and unjust. And, again, I want to stress: not only toward some species that are going extinct, it is so toward all of them, H.S.Sapiens included: this stupidity, on this large scale, is going to backfire -and it’s going to do so proportionally to ist large scale.

    As an example, I’d like to share this documentary I’ve found:

    Deep Ocean Creautres – National Geographics

    It describes first what’s to be found in very deep waters and, in its second part, how some are plunging at those depths, in total ignorance, because of some profit (and you’re gonna see how contorted and wicked the process is) and the damage that’s been done.

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  • I whole-heartedly agree – that’s why I chose only to have two-sons when I could have had more – and then made the decision for vasectomy at 42…..If everybody had this attitude to their responsibility for population growth humanity may have a chance…….and so would all the other creatures that share this bio-sphere!!!

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  • I’m not sure it’s just capitalism…the communists have created much ecological havoc as well. The problem isn’t which particular political system we choose, it’s normal human avarice and short-sightedness. We need to control these to avoid “the tragedy of the commons.”

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  • I know. I’m bummed out too. I hate stories of us being such a wretched species. I feel like the time I went to Acoma pueblo (Native American) and heard their story how eight of their children were sold into slavery to purchase a church bell.

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  • | guess that it’s true “survival of the fittest” that means only ants will live on earth shortly and I don’t think it will be too far in the future.

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  • 11
    NearlyNakedApe says:

    Given the path we, as a species, are on right now, I don’t think is unlikely that we’re gonna have to list ourselves in the endangered species index, in another couple of centuries…

    I think we’re already on that list. Our destructiveness as a species extends to ourselves: pollution, global warming, overpopulation, war, terrorism, rampant ignorance, superstition and corruption, nuclear proliferation… In 50 years from now, thanks to 3d-printing, everybody and their grandmother will be able to make their own handheld anti-aircraft missiles and nukes. And the rate at which we’re burning fossil fuels, the polar ice caps will probably be melted by 2100, maybe even sooner.

    Too many big problems, too much injustice, too much greed, not enough care or will to help from those who can really make a difference. Too many dangerous morons in positions of power pulling on the wrong side of the rope…. dragging us into the abyss instead of away from it.

    We are way more fragile than we think. Our world is hanging by a thread and most people are asleep. They are too busy praying their god, reading their horoscope, swallowing their homeopathetic “flu-buster” syrup or getting their chakras re-aligned by their Karma mechanic to see what’s happening all around us at this very instant.

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  • What an amazing and beautiful creature (I know it’s too late for such feelings). Thanks to author of article. But such articles makes me feel not enthusiastic to work and resist people’s stupidity and cruelty. It makes me feel
    confusion and compassion and shame, and an acute awareness that nothing can be done. People love power, wealth, superiority. How to erase from their blood? (sorry for language)

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  • 13
    Promethean Entity says:

    Sorry Michael, but I got it right the first time. It’s capitalism.

    It’s true that communist states have engaged in terribly ecocidal policies, but the larger point is that capitalism necessitates ecocidal practises. The law of capitalism is ”grow or go into crisis”. This means that in order to avoid crisis, capitalist accumulation must increase its throughput of material stuff, which means extracting more and more resources from the Earth. Capitalism is inherently incompatible with sustainable development. Some sort of socialism at least offers the prospect for a livable future and sensible planning. Capitalism doesn’t because it has a natural tendency towards accumulation, the production of junk, and cheating and stealing.

    ”it’s normal human avarice and short-sightedness”

    No, it isn’t. Blaming it on ”normal human avarice and short-sightedness” ignores why these are so prevalent in the first place. Capitalism in reality fosters and requires avarice and short-sightedness. These then become the scapegoats, as though they were something that existed outside of the class and material relations of society. Blaming ecological destruction on them is a mainstay of those who want to do good but who think this should be achieved without touching the basic relations of production and social organisation.

    ”We need to control these to avoid “the tragedy of the commons.””

    What we need is to avoid the tragedy of capitalist accumulation. Calling this a ”tragedy of the commons” is to ignore the basic structural pressures that compel people to plunder the commons.

    A truly sustainable economy that exists within the thresholds of the planet’s life support systems needs to:

    eliminate entire institutions that currently exist in capitalist society, such as the stock market, the financial sector (at least in the form that it’s currently configured), and advertising (i.e. corporate propaganda)
    switch over to entirely sustainable energy sources
    eventually stop growing, and to have no pretense of growing
    be geared towards achieving a higher quality of life, rather than a higher ”standard of living” and more ”affluence”
    use technology and science to improve human well being and intellectual and social satisfaction rather than being mostly devoted to producing crap
    be properly and consciously planned and also properly democratic and participatory, with the goal being not to increase GDP but to increase social utility

    It’s because capitalism militates against all of these that Earth is now facing a possible sixth mass extinction. I don’t see how we’re going to reign in avarice and short-sightedness if we don’t seek to fundamentally change the structural factors that constantly push people to act according to their logic.

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  • Is this just another Greeny scare story?

    Richard. You can answer this yourself. Do your own research and get back to us in a couple of days. You could start by reading the comments above. This will give you a head start.

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  • Richard Cooper Dec 17, 2014 at 5:35 am

    Is this just another Greeny scare story?

    Do a bit of research using science papers and articles.

    “Greeny scare stories” are the language of the people who swallow the propagandists’ rantings, of scientifically illiterate tabloid journalists, broadcasters, and politicians – mainly those sponsored by the executive-bonus hunting polluters.

    Their denial argument is very easy to understand.
    It is basically: –
    “I’m too thick and lazy to read or understand these scientific measurements, so I will take on airs of fake superiority, and pretend they are wrong!”

    @OP- A stark depiction of the threat hanging over the world’s mammals, reptiles, amphibians and other life forms has been published by the prestigious scientific journal, Nature.

    BTW: The scientific journal “Nature”, is one of the world’s top reputable scientific publications.

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  • Thylacines once inhabited the mainland of Australia, they weren’t unique to only Tasmania. Tasmania is also a part of Australia btw so saying the island below Australia technically isn’t correct. Otherwise everything else you said is correct.

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  • @ Richard Cooper

    I don’t think this article (or any other for that matter) is a “scare story”, what would be the motive?

    There are many ways to take ecological notice – on a macro scale, such as only 4 white rhinos now exist.

    Watch for micro scale affectations in your area – then multiply those by X magnitude occurring world wide. E.g., a lone half acre of bucolic trees were razed for more development. To paraphrase EO Wilson, it was small in area, but home to how many critters!

    A bodacious water slide was test built on a fragile Missouri bluff; wtf, why there? Keep grubby paws off what little nature is left.

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  • When I think of the fact that I will have to explain to my grandchildren that there were once tigers that lived in the wild, along with rhinos, and (by that time) perhaps elephants as well… it makes me sick to my stomach. I don’t know what to do other than continue to support groups and organizations that work for conservation and species survival, try to live a sustainably as possible, boycott corporations that work to undermine sustainability efforts, and continue to educate friends, family, and children (as a teacher). I am so ashamed of humans that are so selfish and wasteful. As for Mr. Cooper, really– you must get an education; you are embarrassing yourself.

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