Give Now  »

Noon Edition

The Extinction Crisis

About 75 percent of Earth’s land, and 65 percent of its ocean areas have been significantly altered by people. (NASA,

There have been five major mass extinction catastrophes in Earth's history. The most famous happened sixty-five million years ago when three-quarters of all plant and animal species on Earth, including the dinosaurs, were lost when our planet was hit by a comet or asteroid.

According to many scientists, we are in the midst of a major mass extinction catastrophe right now. In 2019 a United Nations backed scientific panel concluded that the rate of species extinctions happening right now is already tens to hundreds of times higher than the average over the past ten million years. Roughly a million or more species face likely extinction in the foreseeable future.

According to the panel report, the extinction crisis is because of human activities. You'd be surprised at just how large an impact humans have on the Earth.

About 75 percent of the planet's land, and 65 percent of its ocean areas have been significantly altered by people. Crop and livestock operations alone occupy 33 percent of Earth's land surface, and consume 75 percent of its freshwater resources.

The panel report identifies activities associated with agriculture as the biggest single cause of species extinction.

There are other threats, too, including over-harvesting, logging, hunting and fishing, climate change, pollution, and the spread of invasive species.

The panel called for new environmental policies to preserve habitats, sustainable agricultural practices, and action to stop global warming by reducing the burning of fossil fuels.

Sources and Further Reading







Support For Indiana Public Media Comes From

About A Moment of Science