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Extinction

Cities, Roads, And The Sixth Extinction Event

Earth’s biosphere entered the stage of large, complex, multicellular life (following an extended – approximately three billion year – period of dominance by unicellular life) starting approximately 650 million years ago.  This ‘metazoan’ stage saw the tree of life proliferate and complexify, and has expanded into a huge variety of niches across the planet through to the present day.  A key phenomenon over this period has been extinction events; this describes periods of rapidly changing environmental conditions which have resulted in species die-offs and restructuring of ecosystems at different scales. 

A World On The Edge Of Collapse?

In his 2005 bestseller Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed, geographer Jared Diamond focused on past civilizations that confronted severe climate shocks, either adapting and surviving or failing to adapt and disintegrating. Among those were the Puebloan culture of Chaco Canyon, New Mexico, the ancient Mayan civilization of Mesoamerica, and the Viking settlers of Greenland. Such societies, having achieved great success, imploded when their governing elites failed to adopt new survival mechanisms to face radically changing climate conditions.

Strong Evidence Shows Sixth Mass Extinction Of Global Biodiversity

The history of life on Earth has been marked five times by events of mass biodiversity extinction caused by extreme natural phenomena. Today, many experts warn that a Sixth Mass Extinction crisis is underway, this time entirely caused by human activities. A comprehensive assessment of evidence of this ongoing extinction event was published recently in the journal Biological Reviews by biologists from the University of Hawai'i at Mānoa and the Muséum National d'Histoire Naturelle in Paris, France. "Drastically increased rates of species extinctions and declining abundances of many animal and plant populations are well documented, yet some deny that these phenomena amount to mass extinction," said Robert Cowie, lead author of the study and research professor at the UH Mānoa Pacific Biosciences Research Center in the School of Ocean and Earth Science and Technology (SOEST).

23 Species Gone, Countless More To Save

Many journalists have difficult beats — the specialized topics they cover exclusively or repeatedly. Some write about homicides, some cover local politics, others specialize in investigating sexual assault. For the past 15-plus years, I’ve been on the extinction beat. I catalog the dead and the dying. It’s important to me, but it’s not an easy assignment. It’s hard work, it’s emotional, it’s seemingly endless, and it doesn’t make me much fun at parties (well, the parties I still attended before the pandemic). My wife worries about me. September 29 was a particularly difficult day. That was the day the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service declared its intention to remove 23 long-unseen species — including the ivory-billed woodpecker and a mussel called the flat pigtoe — from the protection of the Endangered Species Act.

On Contact: Mainstream Environmental Movement Lies

On the show today, Chris Hedges discusses the lies and fantasies told by the mainstream environmental movement about how to solve the climate crisis with authors and activists Derrick Jensen and Lierre Keith. A new book shows how technology will not solve our environmental crisis. We will not extract ourselves from the death march toward extinction by recycling, building wind turbines, relying on solar panels or driving electric cars. This is a fantasy sold to us by an environmental movement that promises we can continue to indulge in orgies of consumption and maintain the levels of waste and perpetual growth that define the industrial age. The fact is our time is up. The forests are dying. Water is polluted, and in many places poisoned. Industrial farming is depleting the soil.

Wet Bulb Temperature Is The Scariest Part Of The Climate Crisis

Wet bulb temperature is one of those features of climate change caused by global warming that often gets left out when discussing the radical changes our planet is going to experience in the coming years. Discussion has largely focused on issues such as drought, hurricanes, tornadoes, storm activity, and even unusual cold. The impacts of increased heat have been left out because we assume, incorrectly it turns out, that human beings can adapt to moderate increases in global temperature. This turns out to be false, particularly in areas prone to hot and humid weather. It all comes down to one measure: wet bulb temperature. Wet bulb temperature is the one factor, more than any other, that can render entire regions uninhabitable. Wet bulb temperature is essentially the temperature of a wet thermometer bulb such that the water is able to evaporate into the air.

Species Solidarity: Rediscovering Our Connection To The Web Of Life

If it wasn’t already clear, the Covid-19 pandemic has made it painfully obvious that our lives are entwined with the lives of other animals. Our health depends on theirs, not only because viruses from their bodies can enter ours, but because we survive thanks to the soil they fertilize and the plants they pollinate. And as climate disruption escalates, it’s evident that many animals are buffering us from its worst effects, maintaining ecosystems that absorb carbon and help mitigate the effects of sea-level rise. Conservationists have long cared deeply about the survival of other plants and animals, often for reasons that go well beyond self-interest. But sociologist Carrie Friese, a researcher at the London School of Economics, speculates that in this era of intersecting crises, conservationists and others will be more and more motivated by a sense of multispecies solidarity — a profound understanding that, as Rachel Carson warned in 1963, humans are “affected by the same environmental influences that control the lives of all the many thousands of other species.”

New Documentary By David Attenborough, ‘Extinction: The Facts’

We have learned so much about nature from David Attenborough’s documentaries over the past seven decades. In a new BBC film he lays bare just how perilous the state of that nature really is, why this matters for everyone who shares this planet, and what needs to change. This film is radical. Surprisingly radical. I have written in the past about my growing frustration with Attenborough documentaries continuing, decade after decade, to depict nature as untouched by any mark of humans. I felt this might be contributing to unhelpful complacency about how much “wild” was really left.

Unchecked Global Warming Means Big Trouble for Forests

Tim Brodribb has been measuring all the different ways global warming kills trees for the past 20 years. With a microphone, he says, you can hear them take their last labored breaths. During blistering heat waves and droughts, air bubbles invade their delicate, watery veins, cracking them open with an audible pop. And special cameras can film the moment their drying leaves split open in a lightning bolt pattern, disrupting photosynthesis. "We really need to be able to hear these poor trees scream. These are living things that are suffering. We need to listen to them," said Brodribb, a plant physiologist at the University of Tasmania who led a recent study that helps identify exactly when, where and how trees succumb to heat and dryness. 

Earth And Beyond

Since 1970, people have celebrated Earth Day every year during April. It is a day to reflect on how lucky we are to be on this planet. Unfortunately, it's not a national holiday. All of us, all over the world, both adults and schoolchildren, should be given the day off filled with festivities and programs on all types of media that explain and emphasize how fortunate we are to be here. I've come to think of our intimate relationship with the Earth similar to that between two people, a two-way street with give and take. Ancient peoples thought of the Earth as a goddess; for the Greeks, it was Gaia, the personification of the Earth. Even in modern times, there is the Gaia hypothesis by British scientist James Lovelock that views the Earth as a living organism.

The Struggle For Justice Within Extinction Rebellion US

The Extinction Rebellion is a nonviolent direct action campaign that started in the United Kingdom in the Fall of 2018 to push governments to declare a climate crisis and to take action to rapidly cut net carbon emissions. It quickly spread to more than 50 countries including the United States where activists added another demand for climate justice to make sure that the government's actions do not worsen the current crises of racism, inequality and oppression. Little did US organizers expect that after decades of bringing justice to the forefront of the climate movement, Extinction Rebellion UK would work to undermine that. We speak with long time environmental and climate justice activists Cherri Foytlin and Bea Ruiz, national team members of Extinction Rebellion US, about their struggle to protect the progress they've made.

Society In Jeopardy: UN Report Details Humans Have Pushed One Million Species To The Brink Of Extinction

"Society we would like our children and grandchildren to live in is in real jeopardy.""Society we would like our children and grandchildren to live in is in real jeopardy." The newest United Nations report on global biodiversity has officially been released and it solidifies what the initial draft warned: human exploitation of the environment has pushed one million plant and animal species to the brink of extinction. Conducted by the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES), the report details findings conducted by a team of hundreds of experts from 50 nations.

Global Trade And Destruction Of The Amazon

By Jesse Prentice-Dunn and Ilana Solomon for the Sierra Club. For decades, crews of illegal loggers have traveled deep into Peru’s Amazon rainforest, cutting valuable hardwoods for sale on the international market while threatening indigenous communities, our environment, and the climate. Rampant corruption has plagued Peru’s forest sector, allowing timber mafias to use fraudulent documents in order to obtain permits that they use to illegally harvest timber. According to a study by the World Bank, up to 80 percent of the timber exported from Peru has illegal origins. A new documentary from Al Jazeera shows just how widespread illegal logging is in Peru and how that illegal wood is making its way to the United States.
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