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With Earth's Sixth Mass Extinction Underway, Scientists Implore Action


With Earth's Sixth Mass Extinction Underway, Scientists Implore Action

Jake Johnson, staff writer

"The serious warning in our paper needs to be heeded because civilization depends utterly on the plants, animals, and microorganisms of Earth that supply it with essential ecosystem services."
Paul Ehrlich, Stanford University


Paul Erlich has been discredited for decades. This is the man who said that millions would be starving in America in the 1980s. The man has built a career on scare tactics for more than 50 years. There may be truth in the underlying article, but the fact that a charlatan like Paul Erlich is associated with it detracts from its credibility.


On the contrary. The true essence and not the exact timing of Paul Erich’s warnings have been proven by history and by the current prognostication that science presents if we don’t drastically change our ways. I believe WWSmith is still in denial of the true reality.


We don’t have two or three decades. That’s the problem. We crossed the point of no return quite some time ago.


Only the most basic of mass political actions, inexhaustibly maintained, such as disruptive demonstrations (coordinated civil disobedience), economic boycotts, and focused general strikes, will get the spoilers’ attention. But people fear lethal weapons, for good reasons, and right now the sensible are far outgunned. Picture an editorial cartoon: A man in a trump hat stares out a window and says to his wife “Ethel! Get the AK47 out of the gun cabinet. There’s an armored personnel carrier parked on the front lawn!” If you’ve ever wondered why republicans are so pro-gun, you might start with situations like that.


To quote John Maynard Keynes, “In the long run, we’re all dead”. Erlich has made specific predictions, again and again, which have failed to come to pass. Are we good stewards of the planet? Hardly. Can one believe any prediction out of Erlich’s pen? Hardly.


If attacking the messenger is your point W2S, nice job.

If it’s to provide cover for the business-as-usual crowd too concerned with lining their pockets to notice or care that the worldwide population of vertebrates is down by half in 40 years, nice fail.


As you’d not if you read carefully, I’m not saying anything about the message. As I noted, here and previously, we haven’t been doing a particularly good job with the planet. I am attacking one of the messengers because he has a lifetime history of telling scare stories for his own benefit. Erlich gives science a bad name, and giving him a platform undermines legitimate issues.


You offer what as proof? You state your opinion and spread innuendo but little else. As I remember it (having read the book in question in the late 60’s (not the eighties as you claim) the controversy accompanying the book was that the ‘Population Bomb’ that he predicted never happened. However the reason why the widespread famines in the third world never did was because the Green Revolution had only just begun. The famines of Asia would soon be no more due to fertilizer use and the development of high yield strains and increased mechanization.

Ehrlich was correct except that the Green Revolution hadn’t yet happened when he wrote the book. You obviously never read the book nor do you know much about the subject. Why don’t you do some basic research first before you start to babble?


Ehrlich has been given a platform, and here we are talking about legitimate issues.

Now who got a prediction wrong, again?


Once again you say that he has made predictions that have not come to pass. You never read the book and it shows. Name one prediction! Cite these predictions that you claim or stop accusing someone without cause! You really don’t know what you are talking about at all!.


It is not Erlich who asserts that there is half as much animal wildlife on Earth today as there was when i was a boy, it is the consensus of scientists. Mass extinction is underway, and humans are the primary driver. Your ad hominem attack is a diversion.

The window for effective action is likely closed forever, but those alive now must take in all seriousness the FACT that human society and the human economy are in the process of wiping out most of the life on Earth. We must quickly and completely reorient the basis of economic activity, with stabilization of the ecology as the primary goal of economics.

Your willful pushing of ignorance is very helpful to the looters who run the economy on very different principles today.


I agree. Many trolls like to try to discredit the entire concept of population dynamics based errors in prediction. Ehrlich was “wrong;” therefore, population dynamics don’t apply to human populations. It’s a cheap ploy.


I agree except that Ehrlich wasn’t wrong up until the Green Revolution was implemented. His book came out practically at the same time as the Green Revolution was being introduced in the third world. It soon became obvious that the advent of the famous Green Revolution was a game changer. I remember Ehrlich’s book was a very big deal because of his warning about overpopulation. Well that part happened easily enough however the widespread famines did not because the world embraced the findings of the Green Revolution. A Green Revolution that is still going on but which now incorporates GMO crops!

Sadly there has been some negative news about the changes brought about by the Green Revolution. Lowering crop yields and superweeds becoming tolerant of herbicides etc. in any case had the Green Revolution hadn’t happened, Ehrlich’ s predictions would have been right on the mark.


In a larger perspective, this is not simply a problem of human population dynamics within an otherwise stable ecological system. Earth’s ecology as a whole system is being grossly degraded. That larger picture is extremely grim.


I’ll defer to your expertise re: Dr. Ehrlich and the timing of his predictions.


Absolutely! I was just addressing the ad hominem attack on Ehrlich.


I appreciate the call to action, if only to satisfy the need to do something, but I’m not optimistic about the outcome. The sixth extinction is a pincer move: on one side there’s environmental abuse and neglect driven by population growth and growing consumption; on the other side, our hubris fuels, in some if not most people, a sense of species-centric exceptionalism (the rules don’t apply to us). It’s a deadly combination.

If you think about it, there’s actually tremendous hubris on the authors’ part in suggesting that we humans, having initiated an extinction event that is not only well under way but accelerating, can “manage” that extinction event or repair the damage already done. As any honest ecologist will tell you, a “managed” ecosystem is an impoverished ecosystem. That’s one reason that the policy of “mitigation”–building, for example, “replacement” wetlands to mitigate natural wetland loss–is a deception.

The point is, if we can’t manage or restore damaged wetlands, how are we going to “manage” an extinction event? In one to two decades, at that? I think, whether we choose action or not, we have to accept that an extinction event obliterates not only other species, but the very web of life. There’s no scientist or society on the planet that can recreate the web of life. Only evolution can do that. Take comfort; it will. With us or without us.


Try this one for starters


This article says exactly what I had said to you. Do you have a point to make concerning it? Or did you not read this article through either?