Human beings, the biggest exterminators

Human beings, the biggest exterminators

On Earth, there have been at least five great mass extinctions of all species, the latest being during the cretaceous-tertiary period, 65 million years ago, when a 10-km asteroid hit the Earth and wiped out dinosaurs and other reptiles.

During the end of Permian period, 250 million years ago, more than 85 percent of the species were exterminated. At the end of Triassic, about fifty percent were destroyed with higher figures during Ordovician (450 million years ago) and late Devonian (350 million years ago).

These are geologically the big five mass extinctions. But of late, the most advanced species ever to exist on Earth, i.e. we humans, have been initiating mass extinctions of many species. For instance, elephants have been decimated from millions to thousands. The same goes for tigers, whales, rhinoceros, sharks and what not. In Japan, 3600 whales have been slaughtered over past eight years.

Crushing numbers

Millions of ivory tusks have been confiscated; thousands of frozen whale steak languish in cold storage. Shark fin soup costs eight hundred dollars a bowl and is quite in demand! Europe has an estimated 421 million fewer birds than thirty years ago.

Current treatment of environment along with modern farming methods is unsustainable for many common species. There is ninety percent decline in most common bird species including sparrows. Our own Bengaluru was teeming with sparrows, thirty years ago and now there are none.

The melting of Arctic ice is expected to reduce the population of polar bears to a third in 30 years. Some 60 billion chicken, two billion sheep, cows and goats and three billion pigs are slaughtered every year. Humans are perhaps the only species, who wantonly slaughter fellow beings.

History records shocking numbers too. The European colonisation reduced the Native American population (in Mexico) from 10 to one million in a century, partly due to imported diseases from Europe, to which the natives were not immune.

Do the most advanced species evolving on other suitable planets have a similar exterminator instinct? Is it an inevitable aspect of so called higher evolution? A graffiti joke puts the current situation into perspective perfectly – “there are perhaps very few or no ET intelligences because those beings were much more advanced or evolved than us, consequently destroying themselves much sooner in their history.” 

Man has also been the greatest polluter on the planet, with release of the most toxic chemicals from innumerable industrial processes. Dumping of millions of barrels of oil like in the Exxon Valdez and millions of tons of plastic clogging rivers and seas has now reached a point of irreversible damage. Effluence is much more prevalent than affluence!

In the last voyage of Gulliver, in Swift’s satire, the leader of the ‘advanced’ race of horses, the Houyhnhnms, remark after hearing Gulliver’s accounts of the British way of life, “I can but conclude that your race is the most pernicious race of vermin that nature ever suffered to crawl on this planet.” This statement probably holds true now more than ever.

It’s time we took a long, hard look at our actions and realise the magnanimity of the situation. The ecosystem can’t survive on just the human race.

We will need every important link to make it tomorrow. It’s time to learn from our history and work towards creating a better world for our future generations and let Mother Earth flourish and prosper.

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