Natural disasters, pandemics or manmade tragedies are something that most of us don’t really think about, however, Sunday’s Mass Extinction: Life at the Brink Documentary is going to reveal some interesting insights into why humans may be the ones to cause the next disaster.
Man has already faced tremendous tragedies. The “German measles” epidemic, which caused an estimated 12,5 million infections and around 11,000 fetal deaths was finally conquered when the development of an effective vaccine put a halt to the disease’s spread. Cigarette Labeling and Advertising legislation also contributed to a steady decrease in smoking from 42 percent (in 1965) to 18 percent today, saving over 8 million lives. The effective measures that engineers and experts put in place allowed plane crashes, train wrecks and car accidents to produce less victims (the seatbelt alone saved over 300,000 lives over the last four decades).
However, despite these many advancements, Mass Extinction: Life at the Brink raises an important question: should mankind fear mass extinction?
According to Sean B. Carroll, evolutionary biologist and one of the documentary’s executive producers, there are warning signs all around us. In the last four decades alone, our planet has lost 50 percent of its animal populations. In Africa, for instance, 400,000 lions were reduced to approximately 30,000 in just under fifty years. Moreover, approximately 25 percent of all species being currently monitored are at risk of extinction.
Surely you would think that the situation isn’t as dear as scientists portray it, however, there is evidence suggesting otherwise. Other massive extinctions that occurred on Earth were triggered by large-scale events (the asteroid that struck our planet 66 million years ago, bringing an end to dinosaurs and the massive volcano eruptions in Siberia which ended up decimating life on Earth approximately 252 million years ago). However, the documentary suggests that the rapid global changes that followed those massive events weren’t all that different from what is going on today.
Scientists today fear that the carbon dioxide levels that are believed to have been present 252 million years ago are going to approach those predicted for the next century, if global temperature changes continue.
“[The Great Dying was caused] by massive volcanic eruptions underneath present-day Siberia; and that just pumped massive amounts of climate-changing gases, including massive amounts of carbon dioxide”
These are by no means new concerns. In fact, it’s been common knowledge for over forty years that the composition of our atmosphere has been altered on a global level due to the increase of CO2 resulted from fossil fuel usage.
But as man virtually erases other species’ habitats and continues the dangerous slope of atmosphere composition alteration, all life on Earth is currently approaching extinction 12 times faster than would normally be expected.