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The new geological epoch

Posted on October 14, 2014 by Sunny South News

First the bad news. We are into the sixth mass extinction in the history of the planet. 

The world’s species are disappearing, almost a thousand times faster than at the rate species naturally go extinct.  World Wildlife Fund scientists calculated the steep decline of animal, fish and bird numbers by analysing 10,000 different populations, covering 3,000 species in total. They’ve found the number of wild animals on Earth has halved in the past 40 years. Animals on land and in the waters are being killed relentlessly and the habitats of so many species are being destroyed.

One species, ours, has been so successful on planet Earth, we are leading life off the edge of a cliff. We’re a bit too clever for our own good. We manage three-quarters of all land outside the ice sheets. We can literally move mountains to get the resources we want, plow down forests for lumber and to get at the tar sands, and we divert river systems solely for our own use.

We are altering Earth’s natural cycles, as we dump 10 billion tons of carbon dioxide into the air every year.  Greenhouse gas levels have not been this high in over a million years.  This is why, looking at our effect on the Earth, scientists call this the Anthropocene Epoch. Anthropocene: relating to or denoting the current geological age, viewed as the period during which human activity has been the dominant influence on climate and the environment.

It started in England, about 250 years ago. Inventions were created that used coal and oil, which ignited the industrial revolution. This revolution spread around the world and transportation, medicine, and food production improved by leaps and bounds. The human population rose rapidly. The 1950s marked the beginning of the Great Acceleration.

Globalization, marketing, international travel, and resource investment and extraction fueled unstoppable growth (for the time being).  People left the land and moved into cities and with all that synergy of the brain, led to more and more innovation for profit-making, manufacturing, marketing and unfortunately, great inequality. One billion earthlings are malnourished. Now for the potentially good news. Once you know something, it is hard to un-know it. We shaped our past and are shaping the present, but we can also shape our future into something survivable. This generation is looking around and realizes we are responsible for so much damage and it is time to repair the ecosystems we have harmed. We must repair what we can and use less of everything in order to allow for a future for our descendants.

First, we have to wean ourselves off fossil fuel. Governments are seemingly useless, being in bed with the fossil energy industry. It is up to the people. Efforts to protect species are being proposed and implemented by some governments, by scientists and non-profit organizations trying to build a modern version of Noah’s Ark. It won’t be a big boat but plans are to assist some animals that migrate.

Did you hear about the new architectural designs for skyscrapers that might stop millions of migrating birds from smashing into reflective windows? As well, they are creating more seed banks, new preserves, and new corridors based on where species might migrate, as the seas rise or where new food sources can be found.

A good start for us here in southern Alberta would be to protect bees.  Bees carry out a valuable ecosystem service by pollinating three-quarters of the world’s food production. This means cutting out the use of any pesticides that might harm bees. Another good thing to do would be to not plow up native grassland habitat. Proper grazing of cattle is actually a very compatible thing to do for the grasslands and the vulnerable species therein. We also need to preserve and create new wetlands. The Anthropocentric world we live in is not sustainable for life, as is. We need to change our consumptive, self-centred ways.

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