Holocene extinction

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The Holocene extinction, also known as the sixth extinction or the Anthropocene extinction, is a human-made mass extinction that is presumed to have begun when humans first appeared on Earth (between 1 million to 200,000 years ago). This extinction is an unprecedented phenomenon in Earth's history with no comparable event in natural history (other than the Permian Mass Extinction), with the extinction predicted to have a loss of a projected 1 million+ species (great job, humanity).[1]

The exact time when the extinction started is currently unknown, but anthropologists and other researchers presume it may have likely started as soon as the first humans appeared around about 500,000 years ago to 200,000 years ago. The first victims of the extinction wave were most likely African megafauna that could not adapt to the relentless hunting strategy of the first humans (our ancestors).[2]

Previously, on Planet Earth…[edit]

As indicated by one of its nicknames, the sixth extinction, this mass crisis/event is only the sixth disaster to happen on our planet. Simply put, a mass extinction is an event in which mass amount of species (predominantly animals) die off. The cause can vary depending on the extinction being discussed.

The previous mass extinction is also the most famous (the K-Pg extinction event, a.k.a. the extinction of the dinosaurs) among the general public. The other four are the Triassic-Jurassic extinction event, the Late Devonian extinction, the Late Ordovician extinction, and the Permian-Triassic extinction, which was much worse in scale than the other extinctions, including the one that killed the non-avian dinosaurs.[3]

How it all started[edit]

Scientists have theorized that the first wave of the current extinction occurred as soon as humans appeared and learned how to use tools to kill everything around them. As humans began migrating out of Africa, even more waves of extinction happened, with few megafaunal species outside of Africa surviving. This is because the fauna within Africa evolved alongside us and learned to fear us. However, even they cannot avoid extinction any longer, as rapid human activity on the continent since the Industrial Revolution has kicked the extinction into overdrive[4] (not to mention the menagerie of megafauna that still survived on other continents which share the same fate).[5]

Even before the industrial revolution, hunting and poaching posed (and still poses) a major threat to many at risk species (such as rhinos, elephants, tigers, gorillas, etc.) by reducing the gene pool, and leading to massive inbreeding which reduces the survival of the individual populations and eventually the entire species.[6]

Where it's going[edit]

Environmental scientists have shown studies proving that the extinction is going into full swing as of 2022 and that the planet is headed for an ecological crisis/disaster. One way that this will affect us is that the lack of biodiversity threatens our food source. Invertebrates are especially vital for ecosystem function, from clams to centipedes. One common example is how insects aid in plant survival via pollination (mostly butterflies and bees, but less commonly beetles, wasps, and moths) are killed en masse via chemical pollution and changing climates.[7] Plankton and soil mesofauna/microfauna are also threatened by human activity, as toxic materials that leak into their environments spell disastrous results for them.[8]

Humans will be directly and indirectly affected in a variety of ways, with one example being our health affected from the disappearance of buffer species. These species are (often) animals preferred by other organisms such as pests and parasites (e.g. ticks on deer), which keeps symbiosis in check and keeps people safe from such pests and parasites. However, because we are driving these species to extinction, this leads to those pest and parasite organisms to spread in various ways and find new hosts (which can and will include humans), thus posing a direct threat to public health and the well-being of the general public.[9]

Significant areas being affected are coastal areas such as fishing towns from changing water levels making the surrounding area toxic for aquatic life, heavily forested areas become deserted fast from deforestation and wildfires, and grasslands being decimated from disastrous climate and weather patterns. Animals living in these ecosystems and more are being snuffed out as they are running out of places to live.[10]

Another negative effect are conflicts between humans and wildlife. As humans encroach onto natural areas and build spaces to live, and animals run out of space to live themselves, they come into contact and many encounters are often ugly. Large animals like elk, leopards, elephants, and bears have unsafe interactions between themselves and humans, often running toward settlements and attacking people. Sometimes, either people or animals die in these conflicts.[11]

Tactics to fight the extinction[edit]

Despite all the bad news (not to mention the possible apocalyptic future we face from this extinction crisis), there are ways we can mitigate the effects of this extinction. Here are a few simple methods/ways that you can do your part to help the environment:[citation needed]

  • Go vegan
  • Growing gardens/planting trees
  • Environmental conservation
  • Limiting or ending hunting of threatened game animals
  • Cleaning freshwater and saltwater systems
  • Removal of trash from natural areas and recycling
  • Voluntary childlessness
  • Government enforced population control (very controversial)
  • Reducing greenhouse gas emissions and other air pollution
  • Eliminate chemical pollution by not using harmful pesticides and fertilizers