by Léa Dérédjian
A study by paleontologists has just shown that it would take the Earth 10 million years to recover from ecological disasters related to human activity. That’s the number of years it took the planet and its biosphere to recover from the disappearance of dinosaurs. And it took us a little over a century to destroy everything…
The sixth mass extinction is in progress
Since the appearance of life on Earth, there have been five massive extinctions of species, caused by external events. The most famous? The asteroid that decimated the dinosaurs.
Nowadays, scientists believe that our planet is experiencing the sixth, and most devastating. A new large-scale study on terrestrial vertebrates is irrefutable: no species escapes it. But this time, humans are the cause. If hundreds of species are disappearing from the Earth, it is mainly because we are slowly destroying them.
Human activity emits masses of greenhouse gases, and by a simple cause-and-effect relationship, the atmosphere changes and warms. This climate change is the main cause of the disappearance of animal and plant species, which are unable to adapt, or whose resources (food, housing) are drastically affected.
One species disappears every 20 minutes
A dismal future has just been supported by new statistics: according to a UN report of May 2019, “75% of the terrestrial environment and 40% of the marine environment show ‘significant signs of degradation’. As a result, between 500,000 and one million species, out of an estimated 8 million on the planet, are threatened of extinction.” These figures illustrate the “unprecedented” rate of what is now called the sixth mass extinction. And many could disappear “in the coming decades”.
This “has never happened before in the history of mankind”, experts warn, because it affects both animal and plant species. “Seas and land combined, one species disappears every 20 minutes”.
A study published in the scientific journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS) by Gerardo Ceballos (University of Mexico), Paul Ehrlich and Rodolfo Dirzo (Stanford University) has revealed how catastrophic the situation is… And man is largely responsible for it.
Hunting, fishing, poaching, habitat degradation, pollution, disease, climate change… All these phenomena destroy species at a dizzying rate, and “this failure has catastrophic consequences for the various natural ecosystems,” say the scientists who conducted the study.
The response to the scientists’ alert is now in the hands of governments, who will meet in 2020 in China.
The question of a less predatory mode of development for nature cannot be avoided. Nor is the question of funding – and its fair distribution between rich and poor countries – allocated to the preservation and restoration of biodiversity. Today, some $8 billion a year is allocated to it worldwide. Experts estimate that between 200 and 300 billion are needed each year. But how much do we really estimate the price of living beings and the planet that supports us?