Written by guest writer:
Robert J. Burrowes
Human beings are now waging war against life itself as we continue to
destroy not just individual lives, local populations and entire species
in vast numbers but also destroy the ecological systems that make life
on Earth possible.
By doing this we are now accelerating the sixth mass extinction event in
Earth’s history and virtually eliminating any prospect of human
In a recently published scientific study ‘Biological annihilation via
the ongoing sixth mass extinction signaled by vertebrate population
losses and declines’
Gerardo Ceballos, Paul R. Ehrlich and Rodolfo Dirzo document the
accelerating nature of this problem.
‘Earth’s sixth mass extinction is more severe than perceived when
looking exclusively at species extinctions…. That conclusion is based on
analyses of the numbers and degrees of range contraction … using a
sample of 27,600 vertebrate species, and on a more detailed analysis
documenting the population extinctions between 1900 and 2015 in 177
mammal species.’ Their research found that the rate of population loss
in terrestrial vertebrates is ‘extremely high’ – even in ‘species of low
In their sample, comprising nearly half of known vertebrate species, 32%
(8,851 out of 27,600) are decreasing; that is, they have decreased in
population size and range. In the 177 mammals for which they had
detailed data, all had lost 30% or more of their geographic ranges and
more than 40% of the species had experienced severe population declines.
Their data revealed that ‘beyond global species extinctions Earth is
experiencing a huge episode of population declines and extirpations,
which will have negative cascading consequences on ecosystem functioning
and services vital to sustaining civilization. We describe this as a
“biological annihilation” to highlight the current magnitude of Earth’s
ongoing sixth major extinction event.’
Illustrating the damage done by dramatically reducing the historic
geographic range of a species, consider the lion. Panthera leo ‘was
historically distributed over most of Africa, southern Europe, and the
Middle East, all the way to northwestern India. It is now confined to
scattered populations in sub-Saharan Africa and a remnant population in
the Gir forest of India. The vast majority of lion populations are
Why is this happening? Ceballos, Ehrlich and Dirzo tell us: ‘In the last
few decades, habitat loss, overexploitation, invasive organisms,
pollution, toxification, and more recently climate disruption, as well
as the interactions among these factors, have led to the catastrophic
declines in both the numbers and sizes of populations of both common and
rare vertebrate species.’
Further, however, the authors warn ‘But the true extent of this mass
extinction has been underestimated, because of the emphasis on species
extinction.’ This underestimate can be traced to overlooking the
accelerating extinction of local populations of a species.
‘Population extinctions today are orders of magnitude more frequent than
species extinctions. Population extinctions, however, are a prelude to
species extinctions, so Earth’s sixth mass extinction episode has
proceeded further than most assume.’ Moreover, and importantly from a
narrow human perspective, the massive loss of local populations is
already damaging the services ecosystems provide to civilization (which,
of course, are given no value by government and corporate economists).
As Ceballos, Ehrlich and Dirzo remind us: ‘When considering this
frightening assault on the foundations of human civilization, one must
never forget that Earth’s capacity to support life, including human
life, has been shaped by life itself.’ When public mention is made of
the extinction crisis, it usually focuses on a few (probably iconic)
animal species known to have gone extinct, while projecting many more in
future. However, a glance at their maps presents a much more realistic
picture: as much as 50% of the number of animal individuals that once
shared Earth with us are already gone, as are billions of populations.
Furthermore, they claim that their analysis is conservative given the
increasing trajectories of those factors that drive extinction together
with their synergistic impacts. ‘Future losses easily may amount to a
further rapid defaunation of the globe and comparable losses in the
diversity of plants, including the local (and eventually global)
defaunation-driven coextinction of plants.’
They conclude with the chilling observation: ‘Thus, we emphasize that
the sixth mass extinction is already here and the window for effective
action is very short.’
Of course, it is too late for those species of plants, birds, animals,
fish, amphibians, insects and reptiles that humans have already driven
to extinction or will yet drive to extinction in the future. 200 species
yesterday. 200 species today. 200 species tomorrow. 200 species the day
after…. And, as Ceballos, Ehrlich and Dirzo emphasize, the ongoing daily
extinctions of a myriad local populations.
If you think that the above information is bad enough in assessing the
prospects for human survival, you will not be encouraged by awareness or
deeper consideration of even some of the many variables adversely
impacting our prospects that were beyond the scope of the above study.
While Ceballos, Ehrlich and Dirzo, in addition to the problems they
noted which are cited above, also identified the problems of human
overpopulation and continued population growth, as well as
overconsumption (based on ‘the fiction that perpetual growth can occur
on a finite planet’) and even the risks posed by nuclear war, there were
many variables that were beyond the scope of their research.
For example, in a recent discussion of that branch of ecological science
known as ‘Planetary Boundary Science’, Dr Glen Barry identified ‘at
least ten global ecological catastrophes which threaten to destroy the
global ecological system and portend an end to human beings, and perhaps
all life. Ranging from nitrogen deposition to ocean acidification, and
including such basics as soil, water, and air; virtually every
ecological system upon which life depends is failing’. See ‘The End of
Being: Abrupt Climate Change One of Many Ecological Crises Threatening
to Collapse the Biosphere’.
Moreover, apart from the ongoing human death tolls caused by the endless
wars and other military violence being conducted across the planet –
see, for example, ‘Yemen cholera worst on record & numbers still rising’
– there is catastrophic environmental damage caused too. For some
insight, see The Toxic Remnants of War Project.
In addition, the out-of-control methane releases into the atmosphere
that are now occurring – see ‘7,000 underground gas bubbles poised to
“explode” in Arctic’
and ‘Release of Arctic Methane “May Be Apocalyptic,” Study Warns’
– and the release, each and every day, of 300 tons of radioactive waste
from Fukushima into the Pacific Ocean – see ‘Fukushima Radiation Has
Contaminated The Entire Pacific Ocean – And It’s Going To Get Worse’
– are having disastrous consequences that will negatively impact life on
Earth indefinitely. And they cannot be reversed in any timeframe that is
meaningful for human prospects.
Apart from the above, there is a host of other critical issues – such as
destruction of the Earth’s rainforests, destruction of waterways and the
ocean habitat and the devastating impact of animal agriculture for meat
consumption – that international governmental organizations such as the
UN, national governments and multinational corporations will continue to
refuse to decisively act upon because they are controlled by the insane
global elite. See ‘The Global Elite is Insane’
with more fully elaborated explanations in ‘Why Violence?’
http://tinyurl.com/whyviolence and ‘Fearless Psychology and Fearful
Psychology: Principles and Practice’.
So time may be short, the number of issues utterly daunting and the
prospects for life grim. But if, like me, you are inclined to fight to
the last breath, I invite you to consider making a deliberate choice to
take powerful personal action in the fight for our survival.
If you do nothing else, consider participating in the fifteen-year
strategy of ‘The Flame Tree Project to Save Life on Earth’.
http://tinyurl.com/flametree You can do this as an individual, with
family and friends or as a neighbourhood.
If you are involved in (or considering becoming involved in) a local
campaign to address a climate issue, end some manifestation of war (or
even all war), or to halt any other threat to our environment, I
encourage you to consider doing this on a strategic basis. See
Nonviolent Campaign Strategy. https://nonviolentstrategy.
And if you would like to join the worldwide movement to end violence in
all of its forms, environmental and otherwise, you are also welcome to
consider signing the online pledge of ‘The People’s Charter to Create a
Nonviolent World’. http://
We might be annihilating life on Earth but this is not something about
which we have no choice.
In fact, each and every one of us has a choice: we can choose to do
nothing, we can wait for (or even lobby) others to act, or we can take
powerful action ourselves. But unless you search your heart and make a
conscious and deliberate choice to commit yourself to act powerfully,
your unconscious choice will effectively be the first one (including
that you might take some token measures and delude yourself that these
make a difference). And the annihilation of life on Earth will continue,
with your complicity.
Extinction beckons. Will you choose powerfully?
Biodata: Robert J. Burrowes has a lifetime commitment to understanding
and ending human violence. He has done extensive research since 1966 in
an effort to understand why human beings are violent and has been a
nonviolent activist since 1981. He is the author of ‘Why Violence?’
http://tinyurl.com/whyviolence His email address is [email protected]
and his website is here. http://robertjburrowes.