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Earth Science

Earth In the Midst of Sixth Mass Extinction: the 'Anthropocene Defaunation' 342

Posted by Soulskill
from the i-blame-the-schools dept.
mspohr writes: A special issue of Science magazine devoted to 'Vanishing Fauna' publishes a series of articles about the man-caused extinction of species and the implications for ecosystems and the climate. Quoting: "During the Pleistocene epoch, only tens of thousands of years ago, our planet supported large, spectacular animals. Mammoths, terror birds, giant tortoises, and saber-toothed cats, as well as many less familiar species such as giant ground sloths (some of which reached 7 meters in height) and glyptodonts (which resembled car-sized armadillos), roamed freely. Since then, however, the number and diversity of animal species on Earth have consistently and steadily declined. Today we are left with a relatively depauperate fauna, and we continue to lose animal species to extinction rapidly. Although some debate persists, most of the evidence suggests that humans were responsible for extinction of this Pleistocene fauna, and we continue to drive animal extinctions today through the destruction of wild lands, consumption of animals as a resource or a luxury, and persecution of species we see as threats or competitors." Unfortunately, most of the detail is behind a paywall, but the summary should be enough to get the point across.
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Earth In the Midst of Sixth Mass Extinction: the 'Anthropocene Defaunation'

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  • by roc97007 (608802) on Friday July 25, 2014 @10:14AM (#47531497) Journal

    Humans are bad and you should feel bad.

    Humans are bad. You should feel bad. And give me money so you can feel less bad. I promise I'll use whatever is left over after the upkeep of my seven mansions to save the earth. Mostly by preventing your employer from doing business.

  • Not news (Score:5, Insightful)

    by anzha (138288) on Friday July 25, 2014 @10:18AM (#47531535) Homepage Journal
    Old news. Frankly, the extinction has been going on since the beginning of the Holocene. Hallam said it best: there has never been a time when humanity has successfully and peacefully coexisted with nature.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday July 25, 2014 @10:21AM (#47531563)

    But what IS the point they're making? "Don't build anything, ever, and don't eat any animals, ever" ?

    Stop fragmenting wildlife habitat?
    Crack down on superstitious morons who think that tiger bones will do more to cure their insomnia than over the counter sleeping pills?
    Don't buy a 500 hp pickup for one person to drive to work when you can use mass transit?
    Stop packaging absolutely everything in Plastic which causes the oceans to clog up with plastic waste?
    Replace old fossil fueled power plants?
    Slap massive import duty on products from countries who are major polluters to pay for the damage their total lack of regard for the rest of the planet causes?
    Buy more electric cars and put some effort into making them affordable?
    Expand Economic Exclusion Zones, set up an international naval task-force and crack down on pirate fishing fleets?
    Try to situate food production facilities as close to the consumer as possible to cut down on carbon emissions?
    Promote energy efficiency?
    Provide incentives for people to upgrade old buildings to reduce their energy consumption?
    Try to plan cities and infrastructure to create continuous habitat for wildlife and modify existing infrastructure similarly?
    Stop listing to ignorant and corrupt politicians who label common sense stuff like this as communism?

  • Re:OMG (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Lumpy (12016) on Friday July 25, 2014 @10:34AM (#47531677) Homepage

    2 out of 5 people are lower IQ than 95. an IQ of 80 is considered barely functional.

  • by beamin (23709) on Friday July 25, 2014 @10:43AM (#47531741)

    Who says that the authors are trying to make a point, versus simply drawing conclusions based on observations? The derision in this thread and dismissal of the (ludicrous!) idea that any change in modern society's behaviors may be a good idea strike me as a defensive lashing-out by people who don't take climate change seriously and won't modify their behavior, humanity be damned.

  • Re:no problem (Score:5, Insightful)

    by GNious (953874) on Friday July 25, 2014 @10:45AM (#47531761)

    Nothing is obvious to the uninformed.

    Quite to the contrary - a lot of things are obvious to The Uninformed, though a lot of those things are wrong...

  • by Gavagai80 (1275204) on Friday July 25, 2014 @10:50AM (#47531807) Homepage
    People who lived in mud huts or worse were responsible for most of the megafauna extinctions, not technology. Humans who can't see or don't consider the consequences of their actions are destructive with or without advanced tech.
  • by CanHasDIY (1672858) on Friday July 25, 2014 @11:15AM (#47532071) Homepage Journal

    World's gonna end whether I pay or not, right? Then fuck it, I'm going to do the smart thing and give my money to that Asian guy who comes on my TV at about 2 AM every morning, and tells me that if I give him my money, he'll teach me to get as rich as he is.

  • Re: Not news (Score:5, Insightful)

    by CanHasDIY (1672858) on Friday July 25, 2014 @11:21AM (#47532137) Homepage Journal

    For us to single ourselves out as 'special' or 'remarkable' is flawed.

    All my life I've tried to figure out what it is that makes humans different from the rest of the animal kingdom.

    I used to think it was our capacity to learn, but science disproved that.

    Then I thought maybe it was our ability to teach, but science disproved that one as well.

    But now I think I finally have it figured out, why Man is so much different than the rest of the animal kingdom -

    Human beings have the ability and need to rationalize their behavior, no matter how banal or malicious said behavior may be.

    What'dya think?

  • by Layzej (1976930) on Friday July 25, 2014 @11:55AM (#47532447)

    Identifying the drivers of these extinctions is straightforward, but stemming the loss is a daunting challenge. Animal species continue to decline in, and disappear from, even large, long-protected reserves, due both to direct impacts, such as poaching, and indirect ecological feedbacks, such as habitat fragmentation. Though hunting and poaching might seem obvious candidates for targeted policy and management interventions, there are complex social issues underlying these activities that will require coordinated and cooperative actions by nations (see Brashares et al., p. 376).

    While stemming this loss remains a challenging goal, attempts to reverse the extinction trend are increasing. Such “refaunation” efforts involve a variety of approaches, including breeding animals in captivity, with the hope of reintroducing them to the wild, and assisting recolonization of areas where species have become locally extinct (see Seddon et al., p. 406). Active reversal of animal extinctions is proving just as challenging as preventing extinctions in the first place, but a few success stories provide some hope. Many note and mourn the loss of animals but have not recognized that the impacts of this loss go beyond an aesthetic and emotional need to maintain animals as a part of nature. Current research reveals startling rates of animal declines and extinctions and confirms the importance of these species to ecosystems (see Stokstad, p. 396). Further, and more broadly, it suggests that if we are unable to end or reverse the rate of their loss, it will mean more for our own future than a broken heart or an empty forest.

  • by js_sebastian (946118) on Friday July 25, 2014 @12:29PM (#47532791)

    I'm not convinced people in mud huts were numerous enough or destructive enough to manage the megafauna extinctions. A lot of this hysterical screaming about how we're destroying the planet seems a lot like hubris.

    On certain level, the idea that we have that much power pleases the egos of some people.

    It may seem like hubris, but the fact is, it's not. Look at this: http://xkcd.com/1338/ [xkcd.com]

    The preponderant majority of land mammals in the world, by weight, are either humans or food for humans. For vegetation, the picture is not much more encouraging: all of the world's wild forests weight less and cover way less land than our agriculture does.

    There was a whole special report in the economist about the idea that we are now in a different, man-made geological era, the "anthropocene": http://www.economist.com/node/... [economist.com]

  • by ultranova (717540) on Friday July 25, 2014 @02:04PM (#47533695)

    It's all the ones that are useless to serve or be eaten by humans that are going extinct.

    The problem is, most animal species are useful in the same way as nails in a wall are useful: sure, you can remove one or two without any apparent ill effect, but keep taking them off and the roof will fall on your head.

    Ecosystem is a machine, and while it can adjust to a part going missing or operational parameters changing that capacity has limits. Kill enough species or warm the world enough and you trigger a domino effect. It won't be the end of the world, but it will be the end of our world.

    But of course the temptation to take just one more is too much. It just goes to show that human brains and mindset aren't actually fit to handle our current level of power. I wonder if this is the Great FIlter [wikipedia.org].

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