Mass Extinction of Earth’s History

Essay One: Identify and discuss one significant problem or issue in contemporary culture that concerns you: some of the dimensions of this issue, why it matters to you, and what possible solutions you or others might propose to deal with it.

One of the largest mass extinctions of the earth’s history is underway, this time without the traditional meteor, volcano eruptions, or other apocalyptic signs of the end of the world. This time, the large-scale destruction of the world’s biodiversity is wrought by the hands of earth’s greatest creatures – human beings. Quite interestingly enough, humans are the most intelligent creatures on the planet, and yet are the biggest environmental problem that the earth is facing today.

Evidence shows that humans are a huge factor in today’s premature extinction. Experts predict that at the rate of extinction the biological world is undergoing, about 50% of the species living on earth was disappear within the next eighty to ninety years. Biologist Stuart Primm suggests that during the 1900s, extinction rates spiked and rose 100 times more frequent than in normal conditions. In fact, much of this destruction of biodiversity is caused by human ecosystem destruction, taking over natural resources for our own advantage, overpopulation, and pollution.
“So what?” some ask, “Isn’t extinction and natural selection indeed natural processes where the “unfit” species are wiped out to make way for better suited ones? Aren’t humans promoting this by wiping out species that can’t withstand the new environments?” The answer is yes and no. Extinction and natural selection ARE natural processes, however they occur at a slow, gradual pace, giving species time to evolve in order to better survive the changes. Humans are creating dramatic, rapid changes in the environment, which don’t allow organisms a chance to adapt, thus they die out. The world’s ecosystem is like a house of cards. Each card (or organism) plays an important role in the stability of the entire structure (or ecosystem). The more species we wipe out, the fewer organisms we have to rely on, organisms that relate and help us in some way or another. The biological world may not need US, but we definitely need IT.

All these issues seemed to address the “big picture” for humans. But how does this concern me, the individual? Premature extinction is an issue that I am concerned about because ever since I was little, I was fascinated by nature, not only in animals, but also plants and even the non-living aspects of nature. The human factor that seems to be speeding up the extinction process reminds me of something that I read, “Destruction is the work of an afternoon, and yet Creation is the work of a lifetime.” I have grown to have this great respect to nature and its intricate systems that many humans have carelessly disrupted. One of the things that I admire about nature is its great diversity, and of the many beautiful, unique things that are present here on this earth. One could not even fathom the millions and millions of years that it took for the earth to create such diversity. For example, in nature, a bear is just a bear- nature provides us with polar bears, black bears, grizzly bears, panda bears, koala bears…the list could go on, but this diversity is what marvels me. Yes, not ALL the species on this planet are “doomed,” but those who survive are generally those species that are far more adaptable than the others, such as cockroaches. Although cockroaches are fascinating creatures, I would much rather live in a world full of diverse life (cockroaches included) than in a depleted world with only generalist species left. I would hate to see nature lose its creativity by the hands of human carelessness.

However, there ARE things that could be done to help slow the rapid extinction. As mentioned previously, humans are increasing in population, which puts a strain on the environment. This also calls for more resources to be taken from nature, which results in fewer resources available to other organisms, thus they die out if they cannot adapt. Also due to the increasing population, more habitats of organisms are being destroyed to make way for housing, agriculture, or other human necessities. With more people living on the earth, that would also mean an increase in waste production, which would trigger more pollution. This is detrimental to the well being to the environment since it destroys habitats, which in turn kills off species. What one of the things humans should work toward would be to control our exponential population growth in order to help preserve the amazingly diverse environment that exists around us and helps us survive.