As Earth Undergoes 6th Mass Extinction, Are Humans 'Walking Dead?'

Lemurs, humans, sea birds — they're all at risk. But we can change our fates if we choose to acknowledge what's happening.

Scientists say we're entering into another period of the planet's sixth mass extinction event and humans are on the "at risk" list. The problem here is the world's wealthiest nations, the ones that could do the most good, fail to see climate change as the major threat that it is, and why would they? 

 "There are examples of species all over the world that are essentially the walking dead,” said Stanford University professor Paul Ehrlich to the BBC. It should be noted that humans are not excluded from this list of candidates. 

We don't see the crisis of human displacement, unless we're looking for it in the news.

“In many developed countries we have confidence in our adaptive capacity. We think we can adapt and cope, and in many ways we can do so more than developing economies,” Dr. Debbie Hopkins, a social scientist at the University of Otago, explained in an interview with The Guardian.

We don't see the crisis of human displacement, unless we're looking for it in the news. The world's greatest minds have moved the Doomsday Clock to three minutes to midnight — the closest its been since the Cold War in 1984 — and we're seeing California slowly sink into the Earth. Ecosystems are changing by way of seabirds dyingbee populations being mysteriously decimated, and more than 400 species disappearing since 1900 — a loss that typically happens over 10,000 years. The warning signs are there and they can only get worse.

[S]cientists say we can avoid disaster "through intensified conservation effects,” but that “window of opportunity is rapidly closing.”

Mass extinction events should not be taken lightly (for obvious reasons). These events threaten the balance of our planet, throwing entire ecosystems out of whack. Their origin stories usually center on a catastrophic moment, which caused physical changes in the environment to occur faster than animals were able to adapt. So, pending an asteroid crashing into us or some other disruptive event taking place, the main cause of this sixth mass extinction event will be brought to you by humans through habitat destruction, pollution, and climate change, the last of which has been keeping Bill Nye up at night:

​There are two kinds of failure – but only one is honorable

Malcolm Gladwell teaches "Get over yourself and get to work" for Big Think Edge.

Big Think Edge
  • Learn to recognize failure and know the big difference between panicking and choking.
  • At Big Think Edge, Malcolm Gladwell teaches how to check your inner critic and get clear on what failure is.
  • Subscribe to Big Think Edge before we launch on March 30 to get 20% off monthly and annual memberships.
Keep reading Show less

Why the ocean you know and love won’t exist in 50 years

Can sensitive coral reefs survive another human generation?

  • Coral reefs may not be able to survive another human decade because of the environmental stress we have placed on them, says author David Wallace-Wells. He posits that without meaningful changes to policies, the trend of them dying out, even in light of recent advances, will continue.
  • The World Wildlife Fund says that 60 percent of all vertebrate mammals have died since just 1970. On top of this, recent studies suggest that insect populations may have fallen by as much as 75 percent over the last few decades.
  • If it were not for our oceans, the planet would probably be already several degrees warmer than it is today due to the emissions we've expelled into the atmosphere.
Keep reading Show less
Image source: Topical Press Agency / Getty Images
Politics & Current Affairs
  • Though we know today that his policies eventually ended the Great Depression, FDR's election was seen as disastrous by some.
  • A group of wealthy bankers decided to take things into their own hands; they plotted a coup against FDR, hoping to install a fascist dictator in its stead.
  • Ultimately, the coup was brought to light by General Smedley Butler and squashed before it could get off the ground.
Keep reading Show less

Health care: Information tech must catch up to medical marvels

Michael Dowling, Northwell Health's CEO, believes we're entering the age of smart medicine.

Photo: Tom Werner / Getty Images
Sponsored by Northwell Health
  • The United States health care system has much room for improvement, and big tech may be laying the foundation for those improvements.
  • Technological progress in medicine is coming from two fronts: medical technology and information technology.
  • As information technology develops, patients will become active participants in their health care, and value-based care may become a reality.
Keep reading Show less