It is very likely that our planet is experiencing a mass extinction event resulting from an extraordinary level of human activities. It has been reported that the current rate of extinction is up to 1000 times higher than the background rate.

This is resulting from a range of human activity that started with the industrial revolution that includes the transformation of over 70% of the earth’s land surfaces, soil degradation from agriculture and deforestation, the elimination of many large mammals that are predators of humans including the north American wolf population and massive industrial activity across the planet.

The ecological balance that has been established over millions of years has been substantially disrupted with human activity increasing extinction at an alarming rate. It must be understood that there is a background rate of extinction. 98% of all species that have existed are now extinct. A mass extinction is recognized as resulting in75% of the world’s species being lost.

There have been five mass extinctions events during the planet’s history where the extinction rate was substantially higher than the background extinction rate. The reasons for some of these mass extinction events have been a mystery. However, we know the most recent mass extinction occurred 66 million years ago caused by a large asteroid hitting the earth near Mexico. It resulted in the elimination of 78% of all species and the elimination of the dinosaurs.

We understand mass extinctions based on substantial information from the fossil record which provides an extraordinary record of species that have previously existed and become extinct.

Are We Going to Allow a 6th Mass Extinction? Recently a Possible Answer Has Emerged

In December 2022, the United Nations Biodiversity Conference in Montreal, Canada resulted in a landmark agreement that was ratified by 196 nations. The agreement calls for the protection of 30% of the planet’s lands, coastal areas and inland waters by 2030.  The hope is to halt biodiversity loss by protecting lands and seas that will safeguard the planet. Nations are just starting to implement this aggressive program and the United States and New York State have not yet taken substantial steps towards the 30% preservation goal. This global agreement can be instrumental in halting and preventing a 6th mass extinction.