The Sixth Extinction

Since 2010, The Global Classroom has been involved with Gondwana Alive, a South African non-profit organization dedicated to promoting biodiversity and stemming the Sixth Extinction, which is currently underway. Founded by John M. Anderson (ed.), the project has been endorsed by Nelson Mandela, Kofi Annan, The Dalai Lama, The Prince of Wales, Sir David Attenborough, and Jane Goodall, among others. In recent years our student researchers have been assisting Dr. Anderson with the latest book (titled Africa Alive, release pending) in a series detailing the evolutionary history of our Earth, from a scientific yet philosophical perspective. The new publication will include a comparative portrayal of the evolution of African elephants, apes, cetaceans, and big cat species as well as natural history, censuses, the brain and communication, etc. The book has multiple contributors leading research in diverse array of fields.

Gondwana Alive and the Global Classroom are ardently invested in spreading the message that we must all do what we can to lessen our impact on the planet before it is too late.

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“Humankind is rapidly bringing about the extinction of life worldwide, irreversibly destroying the natural beauty and diversity of our Earth, impotently converting our planet to a sad, sullen slum. We are forging the Sixth Global Extinction: the fifth was caused, we believe, by a massive asteroid 65 million years ago that brought the reign of the dinosaurs to an abrupt close. We must act now to stop the Sixth Extinction. In ten years time we will have lost the opportunity. We cannot pass the buck – neither to any metaphysical authority, or to coming generations.”   – an except from Towards Gondwana Alive -Promoting Diversity and Stemming the Sixth Extinction (1999)

The Sixth Extinction

Also known as the Holocene Extinction, the Sixth Extinction is a term used to describe the dying out of countless species of plants and animals due to destructive human activity. The Sixth Extinction has occurred in three tidal waves of human colonization over the past 100,000 years; only an instant in geological time. Scientists have estimated the present rate of global extinction to be at up to 140,000 species per year. With seven billion people and counting populating the Earth, little room is left for other essential species to thrive.

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Many of us do not realize that with the continual decline of biodiversity on our planet, the existence of human life is also threatened.  A biologically diverse world is essential for providing humans and all living things with functioning ecosystems. Biological diversity is essential for all types of ecosystems to thrive, providing renewable resources, and regulating our climate and the spread of disease. The loss of plant, animal and microorganism species not only threatens the health and safety of humans and other living things, but it also means a loss of connection to nature and to all life. Some of the most biologically diverse places on Earth are also the most beautiful and sought-after travel destinations, providing a refuge for those looking to witness nature’s beauty. Almost all cultures have recognized the importance that nature in all its diversity has had for them and the need to maintain it. Yet power, greed and politics continue to drastically affect the precarious balance of life.

Projected decline of Amazon Rainforest cover. The Amazon produces about 20% of the Earth's oxygen.
Projected decline of Amazon Rainforest cover. The Amazon produces about 20% of the Earth’s oxygen.

 As stated by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature, “Our food and energy security strongly depend on biodiversity and so does our vulnerability to natural hazards such as fires and flooding. Biodiversity loss has negative effects on our health, material wealth and it largely limits our freedom of choice. As all cultures gain inspiration from or attach spiritual and religious values to ecosystems or their components – e.g. landscapes, trees, hills, rivers or particular species – biodiversity loss also strongly influences our social relations …  In the long term, the value of services lost may greatly  exceed the short-term economic benefits that are gained from transforming ecosystems. ”  

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