According to a study published Monday in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, Earth is now possibly facing a “mass extinction” for only the sixth time in past 500 million years — and humans are allegedly to blame.
The study’s authors examined population trends for 27,600 species of amphibians, birds, mammals and reptiles and found an "extremely high degree of population decay.” This does not necessarily mean these species were found to be at risk of extinction, only that there has been population declines recorded.
“When public mention is made of the extinction crisis, it usually focuses on a few animal species (hundreds out of millions) known to have gone extinct, and projecting many more extinctions in the future,” the authors wrote. “But a glance at our maps presents a much more realistic picture: they suggest that as much as 50% of the number of animal individuals that once shared Earth with us are already gone, as are billions of populations.”
The authors wrote “human overpopulation” and “overconsumption, especially by the rich” are the “ultimate drivers” of these problems.
“Much less frequently mentioned are, however, the ultimate drivers of those immediate causes of biotic destruction, namely, human overpopulation and continued population growth, and overconsumption, especially by the rich,” the researchers said. “These drivers, all of which trace to the fiction that perpetual growth can occur on a finite planet, are themselves increasing rapidly. Thus, we emphasize that the sixth mass extinction is already here and the window for effective action is very short, probably two or three decades at most. … All signs point to ever more powerful assaults on biodiversity in the next two decades, painting a dismal picture of the future of life, including human life.”
"We describe this as a 'biological annihilation' to highlight the current magnitude of Earth's ongoing sixth major extinction event," the authors said.
One of the co-authors of the study, Paul Ehrlich, is a noted radical environmentalist who has openly denounced economic growth and cheap energy as dangerous.
"Giving society cheap, abundant energy would be the equivalent of giving an idiot child a machine gun," Ehrlich once said.
“We’ve already had too much economic growth in the United States,” Ehrlich also said. “Economic growth in rich countries like ours is the disease, not the cure.”
According to the Population Reference Bureau, human population growth has expanded rapidly over the past 50 years, as advances in technology and medicine have helped more people live longer, healthier lives.
“For the last 50 years, world population multiplied more rapidly than ever before, and more rapidly than it is projected to grow in the future,” PRB states on its website. “In 1950, the world had 2.5 billion people; and in 2005, the world had 6.5 billion people. By 2050, this number could rise to more than 9 billion.”