"A word in earnest is as good as a speech"
~Charles Dickens: Bleak House

Saturday, May 31, 2014

Mother Nature Is Just So Freakin' Cool!!!!! ... and kinda scary

This came across my news feed today

And it made me think - how is it possible that we as mere human beings think that we can control Mother Nature! There is lots of talk about climate change and global warming. I am a believer that we as humans have polluted our world, we have destroyed species that we will never get back, we have erased rain forests, and habitats. How could we think that there would not be consequences for this?

I also, however, believe that there is a great deal that we don't know about nature. And I wonder, are some of the climate changes just part of nature's cycle. When we went to the Field Museum in Chicago last year I remember being a little baffled when I learned of all the extinctions the earth has had. It wasn't something I remembered learning previously. Earth has had at least five mass extinctions that we know of. All of which occurred with absolutely no human intervention! It was about adaptation - survival of the fittest - the ability to adapt to changing environments.

I searched the internet for quite some time to find a list of all extinct animals and it was harder than I thought. I searched briefly through academic journals, reputable web pages, some not so reputable web pages and I found lists of extinct mammles, lists of extinct plants, lists of extinct birds, and so on, but no long list of all the species we have lost on this planet since the last major extinction in the Cretaceous-Tertiary mass extinction. Apparently the Red List from the IUCN is where people get the information for all the other lists - but it isn't common folk user friendly. So why am I ranting about the inability to sit lazily on my couch and find the information I seek using very little effort - because how are people going to care about the fact that we are losing biodiversity, that we as humans are responsible for species extinction if people like me, who are really interested, can't find the information. So, below are some interesting articles I found on animal extinction while I was searching. From the information I manged to accumulate in the endless line of tabs I currently have open there is anywhere from 50 millions species living on the planet to we have absolutely no idea how many species are on the planet. Another estimate I found is that 99% of all species to have ever existed are now extinct - it doesn't say if they are including the species that existed prior to the 5 mass extinctions, but I am assuming it does (I am still not sure if I believe this one). According to the Center for Biological Diversity, dozens of species (many we don't even know about yet) are going extinct daily and we are in the middle of an extinction crisis.

Quagga, Baiji River Dolphin & Caribbean Monk Seal - all extinct

This leads to the very scary idea of a sixth extinction. Of course it is important to note that this won't happen (if the scientists are accurate) for a few more centuries - good news for us, bad news for our great-great-great-great grandchildren. This for some reason does not make me feel better. 

100 Most Threatened Species - contributing to the Sixth Extinction
Species Extinction Happening 1,000 Faster Because of Humans? 

Another interesting aspect to this whole species extinction event theory is the idea that we can manipulate Mother Nature just a little bit more by bringing extinct animals back through de-extinction! The best headline I found on this one was from the New York Times: The Mammoth Cometh - Bringing extinct animals back to life is really happening - and it's going to be very, very cool! Unless it ends up being very, very bad! And that is science today in a nutshell! There are species I believe Mother Nature intended to be extinct - the ones destroyed in the first five mass extinctions for instance - the ones that happened prior to human intervention. But the species that we destroyed by polluting the world and stealing their habitat perhaps if we could fix that it would be a pretty cool thing.

So we can continue to watch our weather get a little more intense every year and debate whether it is due to global warming, or climate change, or pollution, or the natural progression of nature. But what is happening will happen - how fast, and how horrible will be up to us. 

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