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1.5 Million Species Going Extinct?

If you just heard the wake-up call regarding the many environmental problems harming our planet -- largely the result of humans unnecessarily tinkering with Mother Nature -- you haven't begun to see all the changes, according to this disturbing excerpt from the upcoming book, The Fragile Edge by Julia Whitty.

Scientists believe we're living through the Holocene period, the sixth great extinction our planet has faced in its 439 million years of existence. Each of the previous extinction events wiped out the most dominant life forms and as much as 95 percent of all life.

Thanks to a large degree to the unchecked assault on nature propelled by big industry, the rate of extinction among our planet's 1.5 million scientifically named species is accelerating, and not just among the seemingly cute pandas and tigers you often see protected in zoos and wildlife preserves.

Based on assessments by the World Conservation Union, a quarter of the mammals, a third of the amphibians and one-eighth of the birds -- out of some 40,000 species the organization has assessed -- are currently at risk of extinction. And one Harvard University biologist believes the true rate of extinction among species could be 10,000 times the background rate, not 100 times (a very conservative estimate based data collected during the previous century).

Whitty's piece ends with a short, apocalyptic warning that will hopefully prompt more action taken by all of us to save our planet from man-made disasters in the making: Like us, the Earth has a finite budget.

The Independent April 30, 2007