How humans have caused the 6th mass extinction.

An informative 5-minute read – hang in there.

Al Gore, the former vice president of America and famous environmentalist, said 100 species are going extinct every single day. While it is difficult to pinpoint exactly how many species are going extinct because we haven’t fully counted all that exist, or have documented all the species in the first place, there is now more and more evidence that we are entering the 6th mass extinction event… that we are directly responsible for. Yay humans!

Today I am ranting about how humans are quite destroying life on our planet. A nice non-depressing subject for your Monday arvo huh! 

Since the birth of the agricultural and industrial eras of humans, we have fundamentally changed how we interact with the land and nature, in a bad way. Nature always maintained an equilibrium. The food chain is in perfect harmony from top to bottom and the biosphere is a self-sustaining system. Every species from the bottom of the food chain right to the top predators are totally reliant on each other and any imbalance causes big problems. For Example, if one species in that food chain multiply uncontrollably, or don’t have any more natural predators to keep their numbers in control, or the other way round, that ecosystem becomes unbalanced and fails.

Before the agricultural revolution, we were a more primitive species. There were fewer of us and we knew how to take from the land but also give back, and not upset the equilibrium. Fast forward to now, we have billions and billions of humans all over this planet, all wanting to consume and grow. This has come at an extreme cost to our fragile ecosystem. 

A lot of people turn their noses up and think oh well, f**k nature, I don’t like bugs and animals that much so who cares. As you probably know that the populations of honey bees are dying out rapidly which is causing and will cause enormous damage to crops and flora, which have a direct knock-on effect on humans. Some scientists think that if all bees went extinct, humans would have 4 years before we ran out of food.

‘When humanity exterminates other creatures, it is sawing off the limb on which it is sitting, destroying working parts of our own life support system’ – Professor Paul Ehrlich of Stanford University research team.

Rate of extinction caused by human activity.

1 million of the planet’s 8.7 million species are at current risk of extinction.

Current data and researchers estimate that 40,000 species are lost per year, a conservative estimates of 500 species a year. Either way, it is a lot faster than normal. In fact, fossil data suggest that we are currently 1000 to 10,000 times higher than background or ‘normal’ extinction rates’.

5 previous extinction events

  1. Ordovician, 445 million years ago. Death rate of 84% approx. Likely cause: rapid global cooling and sea level loss.
  2. Devonian, 340 million years ago. Death rate of 70% approx. Likely cause: asteroid impact, global cooling and oceans cooling
  3. Permian, 250 million years ago. Death rate of 95%. Likely cause: Volcanic activity methane and carbon release resulting in rapid global warming and desertification of land and oxygen starvation of oxygen in the ocean. 
  4. Triassic, 200 million years ago. Death rate of 76%. Likely cause: Rapid global warming resulting from large quantities in CO2 and methane being released into the atmosphere causing frequent heat waves, desertification of lands and ocean acidification.
  5. K-T Event, 65 million years ago. Death rate of 80%. Likely cause: Massive asteroid impact leading to huge shockwaves and dust blocking out sunlight, causing nuclear holocaust. 
  6. Holocene extinction, currently ongoing, Death rate: unknown. Likely cause: Humans and human-caused climate change and habitat destruction.

As you can see, the biggest culprits of mass extinction tend to be rapid global warming or cooling associated with CO2/methane release or asteroid impacts. As a species we are directly responsible for the enormous increase in Methane and CO2 into our atmosphere, not to mention plastics in our oceans and the huge physical destruction of rainforests. I am not going into those now as we will literally be here for hours and I’ll get angry, but, yeah, this is a huge problem that as a species, we aren’t doing enough to reverse.

FYI, the reason CO2 and methane in our atmosphere are so bad is that the sun’s rays heat up the air as these gases act like a greenhouse – hence the term ‘greenhouse effect’. When temperatures increase, lush land turns into deserts, ecosystems are destroyed, oceans become too acidic and evaporation is much higher, which causes crazy weather patterns, crops become destroyed, water shortages occur, etc. A whole host of shitty things happen.

Have you heard of the Great Pacific Garbage Patch (GPGP)? It’s this lovely large floating gyre of plastic trash 3 times the size of France that is in the middle of the pacific ocean.

There is now over 150 million tons of plastic in our ocean now and an estimated 8 million tons of plastic enters our oceans every year. This is everything from plastic lighters and toothbrushes to plastic bottles and fishing nets. The trouble is plastic takes thousands of years to decompose and it literally chokes the animals and poisons the water.

Last year I organised a voluntary trash pick up with some friends and local fishermen on the island of Awaji, just off Osaka bay in Japan. In just 3 hours, 30 of us picked up nearly 150kg of plastic trash on one small random beach, on one random island in Japan. It really put things into perspective. There were coke bottles from America, crisps packets from France, Noodle cups from China and a whole lot of other random stuff from random countries that have floated around.

Here is a list of a few recently extinct animals in the last 20 years that we will never see again, thanks directly to human activity. This is not a full list, rather just a few examples.

  • Alaotra Grebe.
  • Pinta Tortoise.
  • Formosan Clouded Leopard.
  • Caribbean Monk Seal.
  • Liverpool Pigeon.
  • West African Black Rhinoceros.
  • Christmas Island Pipistrelle.
  • Madagascar Hippopotamus
  • The Dodo
  • Passenger pigeon
  • Pyrenean Ibex

Every single year, hundreds of more species receive endangered status due to human activity. As you well know, Biostays is all about providing epic adventures and places to stay, but also saving the rainforests of our planet. And as it stands, we lose 60,000 acres of rainforest a day for agriculture and industry. 

As the most advanced and powerful species of this planet, we should see ourselves and indeed act as stewards or marshalls of this planet and be guardians of the biodiversity and natural ecosystems. Rather than being the disease or parasite, causing destruction of our natural world. 


Ed and the Biostays team