The Anthropocene, Extinction Now


The Anthropocene is a colloquial term used to identify the current epoch of human dominance and impact. It is also referred to as Earth's sixth major extinction event. The starting point of this epoch is debated, ranging between the agricultural revolution after the last ice age and the Trinity Test, our first nuclear detonation. Even though exact dates are debated, the impact is clear and further exacerbated with a population growth from 1 billion in the early 1800's to more than 7 billion today. This had led to a system where globally 36% of all mammals are human, while 60% is livestock. The human acceleration of extinction is estimated to be between 100 and a 1000 times greater than the natural background rate of extinction.


The Anthropocene is a proposed epoch relating to human dominance and impact on planet earth. It is closely intertwined with the ongoing extinction event known as the Holocene extinction, but also accounts for the human influence on accelerated extinction rates. These impacts are diverse and range from over-consumption to climate change. Although the age is not officially declared as part of the geological time scale, the fact that human dominance has a profound effect on the entire planet is evident. We have been deemed a superpredator that preys on other apex predators and significantly alters the ecology of the planet to an extent not witnessed before.

There is much debate as to when this epoch truly started, such as with the agricultural revolution 6 to 8 thousand years ago, the beginning of the Subatlantic climatic age 2.5 thousand years ago, the industrial revolution 300 years ago or with the Trinity Test on 16 July 1945 when the first nuclear weapon was detonated, as is proposed by the International Anthropocene Working Group. Whether an official date is declared or not, it is certain that over time the effects of human development and conquest left and ever-growing imprint on its surroundings that continues to grow to this day. Many anthropogenic activities are considered to contribute to the extinction of species on earth.

A study published by the National Academy of Sciences estimates that since the beginning of human civilization 83% of large mammals have disappeared, along with 80% of marine mammals, 50% of plants, 15% of fish. Not to mention birds, reptiles, amphibians, arthropods and other. It is also estimated that 60% of the current mammal population of earth is livestock, then 36% being humans. This leaves a mere 4% of the remaining mammals as wild creatures. As for birds, only 30% are wild, while 70% are domesticated primarily for the poultry industry. The accelerated rate of extinction due to human impact is believed to be between 100 and 1000 times greater than the natural background rate of extinction.

Besides the decline of biodiversity due to over-consumption, anthropogenic climate change is another major issue with disastrous consequences. A million year long natural fluctuation of CO2 indicates changes of between 180ppm to 280ppm before the industrial revolution. Since then it has increased to more than 400ppm and is only rising. The primary contributors to this are industry, transport, and agriculture. The production of materials and transport methods emit masses of fossil fuel byproducts and other greenhouse gasses. Industry and electricity contribute to roughly 40% of greenhouse emissions, while transport accounts for about 15%. Certain agricultural methods and chemicals used in crop production release greenhouse gasses, while ridiculous amounts of livestock release methane into the atmosphere accounting for 20% to 25% of carbon emissions in 2010. This leads to unstable climatic conditions and permanent alterations in weather patterns of the entire planet. It is no myth.

All these factors are on the rise and with an ever-growing population and higher demand for space, basic needs and luxury will only continue to do so. Since the industrial revolution, the population has increased from1 billion to 7 billion. Conservative estimates believe this number to rise to 10 billion by 2050 while extreme scenarios estimate almost twice that. If the current trend of consumption continues as is, there is little hope for a sustainable and diverse future with such an increase in the human population. It is clear then, we humans, in the Anthropocene is an extinction event which if not kept in check will destroy not only other life but perhaps even ourselves, and rightfully so.

#conservation #extinction #anthriopocene #holoceneextinction #overpopulation #overconsumption #massdevelopment #biodiversityloss