There are five so-called "mass extinction events" for which huge subsets of biodiversity disappear from the fossil record. Most scientists believe we are living in the sixth, the Holocene Extinction. Although much can be attributed to natural climate change as Earth exited the last Ice Age, it has proven likely that the population explosion and associated consequences of modern humans after the Industrial Revolution is now the dominant effect.
Unfortunately, the reality of this situation is unknown to much of the general public. This is perhaps because extinction events occur over many human lifespans and thus appear truly cataclysmic only through the lens of geologic time. (The Cretaceous-Tertiary event that wiped out the dinosaurs may have taken up to several hundred thousand years.) Whatever the reason, it is apparent that concerted conservation and outreach efforts spanning multiple generations will be required to preserve Earth's biodiversity for those that proceed us.
Tag Archives: Iris Nebula
Photos of cosmic dust after the jump.