The journal Nature warns that the activity of humans has us rushing toward Earth’s sixth mass extinction.
In a series of recent studies, researchers discovered that nearly one quarter of mammal species are at imminent risk of extinction, rates comparable to the previous mass extinctions when “cataclysmic forces” — volcanic explosions and meteorite strikes — wiped out the dinosaurs.
According to the article in Nature, “Human impacts on the environment are imperiling the species and ecosystems of Earth at ever-increasing rates. Land-use change and habitat fragmentation, overhunting, invasive species, and pollution already threaten 25 percent of all mammal species and 13 percent of all bird species, as well as more than 21,000 other species of plants and other animals, with extinction.”
The Earth’s population is growing at a rapid rate, and will continue to do so in the decades to come. Within the last 50 years, Earth’s human population has increased by 130 percent and is estimated to rise more than 10 billion by 2060.
“With the human population worldwide now 25 times greater than 3,000 years ago and projected to increase by about 4 billion people by the end of the twenty-first century,” the authors warn, “extinction rates will accelerate in the absence of large-scale conservation actions.”
Thankfully, scientists claim there’s still time to turn things around by tweaking our diets, protecting habitats, and taking other forms of conservation. “Earth is capable of providing healthy diets for 10 billion people in 2060 and preserving viable habitats for the vast majority of its remaining species,” the authors continued. “The benefits for biodiversity and humanity of pursuing these goals are great, and with forethought and timely action, these goals can be achieved.”
So, how can you help? Start by eating a plant-rich diet filled with vegetables, fruits, seeds, and nuts. It gets harder from there.