The Holocene Extinction

It is impossible to discuss past mass-extinction events on Earth without mentioning the Holocene extinction. The Holocene epoch encompasses the last 10,000 years, up to the present day. In other words, we are living through yet another mass-extinction event. In this case the cause is clear: human activity. We hunt species to extinction; we introduce alien species into new ecosystems and cause havoc; and, most importantly, we destroy habitats. It does not feel as if we are in the midst of a mass extinction because, on an individual scale, 10,000 years is a long time. On a geological scale, though, it is an instant. Under some estimates, the rate at which species are becoming extinct is now 120,000 times the "normal" or "background" rate.207 Many of the species made extinct by our destruction of rain forests have never even been documented. If the current rate of extinction is maintained, and the destruction of the rain forests continues, then global atmospheric and climatic effects seem certain to occur. It is then highly probable that Homo sapiens will be one of the species that joins the extinction. Harking back to a previous solution discussed in the book, perhaps a general evolutionary law is that intelligence extinguishes itself.

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