There is increasing scientific evidence that suggests humans are the driving force behind a sixth great mass extinction, which is an emerging trend in the current Holocene Epoch. “Anthropocene extinction” is a name proposed by modern scientists to describe such an event, which scientists suggest is currently underway. Evidence of a present period of extinction can be seen in the forms of distress in weather patterns, extreme changes in temperature and the exponential disappearance of animal populations worldwide.
The Holocene Epoch began after the end of the Pleistocene extinction, roughly 11,700 years ago. This period of the world’s history is often called the Age of Man because after dinosaurs died out, the rise of man as an evolved and dominant species began. This period has been marked largely by bounty and prosperity. Resources have allowed for plentiful crops and livestock rearing, which has allowed humankind to propagate and thrive.
Unfortunately, the population of the Earth has doubled over the last 35 years. This jump in the demand for natural resources, housing, and thriving industry has encouraged mankind to expand without limit. This growth has come at great, and often unnecessary, cost to the environment.
Scientists have speculated that the seismic change that led to the extinction of dinosaurs could have been similar to the processes of extinction and devastation that are being witnessed in the Earth’s ecosystems today. Global warming, climate change, plant and animal extinction, and urban blight during this Holocene Epoch are all indicators and solid evidence that a major shift in the planet’s overall health is impending.
Researchers indicate that environmental calamity is pointing more and more to an approaching mass extinction. As climate change and air pollution alter the dynamic of native habitats, more animal species are dying out than during any other period in history outside of a mass extinction. The last mass extinction event was known as the Pleistocene extinction. The Holocene Epoch is a period of time between roughly 10,000 BC to present.
In the present day, an alarming number of plants and animals have faced extinction due to the impact humanity has made on the environment. This is not conjecture or speculation; rather, this information has been proven and is supported by modern scientific findings. Plant and animal species are dying at a rate that is 1,000 times greater than before human beings existed. This process is known as defaunation.
Defaunation leads to shifts in global climate as plants and animals become unavailable to play their part in the planet’s ecosystem. The effect that this has on the environment is measurable. According to the United Nations (UN), natural disasters have increased by five times since the 1970s, and scientists, researchers, zoologists and geologists concur that this is a result of a change in global climate. These specialists also agree, almost unanimously, that these changes are the result of mankind’s impact on the environment.
Defaunation is a process in an ecosystem where the predators at the top of a food chain begin to decline. This decline can disrupt other species of plant and animal life, and changes whole ecosystems permanently. The dinosaurs would be a historical example of megafauna, which are historically more vulnerable to extinction.
Today, megafauna such as elephants and rhinoceroses are becoming endangered species. Presently 16-33 percent of the planet’s vertebrates are classified as endangered or threatened. Invertebrates, such as bees, spiders, butterflies, and other insect life, have seen a decline of as much as 45 percent in the past 35 years. This news made headlines in 2014 as scientists investigated the mass die-off of bees worldwide. Some scientists estimate that by the year 2250, humanity will have destroyed as much as 75 percent of the world’s plant, animal and invertebrate species.
On a global scale, the evidence of climate change in this year alone confirms an ongoing Holocene extinction. Carbon dioxide emissions are as high today as they were 3 million years ago, affecting global climate change. Floods in Europe, the polar vortex that has made headlines for disrupting weather patterns worldwide, landslides and draught in the U.S., and fires and heat waves in Australia all support the theory that another mass extinction is on the horizon for mankind.
By Mariah Beckman