Scientists at Yale University have announced that the world is in the middle of its sixth global extinction, known as the Holocene extinction.
The last major extinction on the planet occurred 65 million years ago when a massive asteroid, known as the Chicxulub impactor, wiped out 75% of all species. This time, however, scientists say that we are the asteroid.
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The resulting firestorm that traversed the globe, and the climate change that occurred afterward – due to gases released during this conflagration and the die-off it caused, and the dust thrown into the atmosphere during the impact, which blotted out the Sun – claimed an estimated 75 per cent of all species on that were alive on Earth at the time, including the most, if not all, large dinosaurs.
Far from the largest extinction event in the fossil record (that would be the Great Permian Extinction, roughly 250 million years ago), the fifth extinction represented a fundamental shift in the planet’s ecosystem.
Today, according to scientists, we are in the midst of the sixth major extinction event, known as the Holocene extinction. In this case, though, we – the human race – are the asteroid in this scenario.
One particularly alarming point the scientists raise in this month’s Yale Climate Connections video (shown above), besides the alarming rate of loss of life on the planet and the extremely long recovery time Earth requires to recover from loss of biodiversity, is the loss of genetic information – survival information – that this reduction of biodiversity represents. The species lost – many of which we will never even know existed – contain an abundance of survival information locked away in their genetic code. This is information we could learn from, in order to enhance our own survival, but it appears as though, in many cases, we will never even have the chance.