Escaping the sixth great extinction event

The protection of our planet and its people cannot slide off the political agenda


Scientific research conducted by a partnership of three universities has revealed that vertebrates are disappearing at significantly quicker than 100 times the regular rate, with our own species at substantial risk.

Among the causes identified by the study are pollution and climate change, with blame attributed to human activities. If current and future generations are worth considering, with regard to the potential extinction of both humanity and a great number of our fellow animals, it is time to act.

The problem could hardly be of a greater magnitude, and it is at hand. We can, however, avert the danger, at least to a large extent. Our species is innovative, resourceful and caring – but the will to take action must be present.

To outline the predicament, in the 4.5 billion years of our planet’s existence, there have been five widely agreed-upon (hitherto discovered and delimitated) major ‘extinction phases’. The last of these great phases (or ‘events’) – relatively very short periods of time in which varying percentages of taxonomic families, genera and species were wiped out – put paid to, amongst others, the dinosaurs. It occurred something in the ballpark of 65 million years ago, most likely triggered by the impact of a comet or asteroid.

We are in the midst of the sixth great extinction event – right here, right now – say researchers and scientists from the universities of Stanford, Princeton and Berkeley.

The dinosaurs and many of their contemporaries could neither conceive nor do much about their impending doom but, thankfully, we can. The means are available to prevent the demise of ourselves and the diverse, stunning animals that we share the planet with; but we must be willing to use the tools at our disposal. The Green Party possesses that will.

Protecting our planet and the life that inhabits it begins locally. In the United Kingdom, the traditional Westminster parties have failed, and continue to fail, in their duty to act as guardians of our planet, as rises in temperature drive native species to extinction. The whim of large corporations that aim to frack the countryside and pollute the air and waterways, is bowed to and their self-interested agendas are met.

In London – a global capital and the chief city of one of the most advanced states on Earth – a staggering 4,000 premature human deaths per year are caused by air pollution. In June of 2014, King’s College researchers identified Oxford Street as the single most polluted place on the globe. Also last year, the European Union launched legal action against the British government for failing to meet its targets for reducing air pollution, a little under 12 months after the EU’s Supreme Court ruled that the latter is failing to protect its citizens.

The warning signs are up in lights but somehow going unrecognised or being conveniently ignored.

The ignorance, the parochial interests, the inaction, the callousness – it is these that desperately frustrate the Green Party, but also serve as a source of inspiration and determination.

A tough stance against fracking companies and investment in renewable energy technologies will reduce greenhouse gas emissions and give us a weapon with which to battle climate change. Responsible and accurate monitoring and reporting of air pollution can facilitate reductions to safer levels. Cleaner forms of transport can transform London and its fellow UK cities into cleaner, healthier environments.

We have the ability to reduce our reliance on fossil fuels through a committed programme of investment in solar, wind and tidal energy, to lessen our dependence on private vehicles by means of providing world-class public transport, to protect our natural spaces by securing necessary funding, and to report, reveal and react to levels of air pollution.

In London and across the world, we are now unmistakably witnessing the impacts of pollution and long-term climate change, the disastrous effects of which have never been more dramatically underlined than through the Stanford-Princeton-Berkeley study (which followed a set of similarly worrying conclusions reached by a 2014 Duke University report). Whether inaction is due to a denialism that appears increasingly bizarre, a head-in-the-sand lethargy or a selfish focus on profit and gain, that idleness must now and finally end.

The protection of our planet and its people cannot slide off the political agenda, and the Green Party will not allow it to do so.

Although, finds the tri-university study, the “evidence is incontrovertible that recent extinction rates are unprecedented in human history and highly unusual in Earth’s history,” we still have the ability and means to avoid “a true sixth mass extinction”.

However, the “window of opportunity” to dodge being consigned to history as players in one of the planet’s great periods of biological demise – if, that is, there’s anyone around to document it – is “rapidly closing”.

It is time to take note, to care, and to act. Join with the Green Party in identifying, sourcing and utilising the means to, before it is too late, save ourselves and our fellow creatures from annihilation.

David Maher is a journalist and member of the Green party

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19 Responses to “Escaping the sixth great extinction event”

  1. Torybushhug

    The ultimate aim of British white middle class charity and NGO workers is to give everyone on the planet a western living standard, and cause every last one of us to live as long as possible.
    Mass immigration into the UK is precipitating the rise of ever more intensive UK agriculture and food imports, increasing road and cat kill (Viviparous lizard colony in my area recently wiped out by influx of cats as more folk moved in) and is pushing British wildlife into an ever tighter corner.

    The tree hugger has all but given up. The green party, not on your side.

  2. dnspncr

    Look at how we treat our fellow man. The ILF ended yesterday but all these socially aware lefties are going on about is party politics “Liz Kendall shows her red side”, yeah whatever. It is by far the most disgusting act carried out by the tories since they took power yet it passes with little fuss. The last time the ILF was mentioned on this site was six days ago and it only got a couple of comments…. you don’t have to be disabled to care about what’s happening, I’m not, it just takes a little empathy.

  3. wj

    I agree with the below commenter – large scale immigration has virtually wiped out the green areas in my city.

  4. stevep

    Yes, you`re right.

  5. stevep

    Intensive agriculture, created from wartime necessity, is causing most of it. wildlife is being pushed onto road verges and urban areas to survive.
    A debate, free from party politics is long overdue on agriculture. Do we still need to subside it?
    Should we succumb to the global economy and let agriculture take place where is most efficient and economical to do so? After all, that is what happened to coal, steel and shipbuilding.
    The urban economy benefits much more from leisure and tourism than from agriculture, that much was established after the foot and mouth cattle epidemic of 14 years ago, it employs more people too.
    It has been noted that widespread upland sheep farming could be a major contributor to lowland flooding by virtue of the sheep stripping uplands of vegetation which would otherwise trap and slow down the release of water.
    It will take brave politicians to raise the issue as the agriculture lobby is a powerful one, they have a high-profile show on TV (Countryfile) and many supporters.

  6. Selohesra

    were these ‘scientists’ neutral from the start or did they include serial doomsters out for a headline like Erlich?

  7. dnspncr

    If those who support the scaling back of state welfare had come out in support of passing care for multiple sclerosis suffers over to cash-strapped local authorities, then who knows, maybe the last article would have generated a few more comments… blame the misanthropes for not having the courage of their convictions I guess.

  8. dnspncr

    I can see you now brushhug, standing outside your local migrant advice centre with your “save the lizard” placard.

  9. JoeDM

    More global warming bollocks

  10. gunnerbear

    “In June of 2014, King’s College researchers identified Oxford Street as the single most polluted place on the globe.” Ahead of this lot…..?

  11. gunnerbear

    “The ultimate aim of British white middle class charity and NGO workers is to give everyone on the planet a western living standard….” By smashing UK industry into the dust and transferring our wealth overseas…….

  12. gunnerbear

    Maybe if we weren’t p***ing billions away in Int. Aid and spending UK taxpayers cash in the UK, there’d be more money for such services in the UK. Why does the Left hate the UK so much that it would rather see UK taxpayers cash spent abroad instead of in the UK?

  13. gunnerbear

    Well – people voted for mass immigration when they voted Labour. Labour s**tting on the native working class for decades….

  14. NicolasSMooney

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  15. dnspncr

    If you seriously believe that, you’re deluded.

  16. gunnerbear

    What about the billions being p***ed away in Int. Aid or that the Left hate the UK citizens that much they want the doors of the UK thrown open to all and sundry and UK taxpayers cash spent abroad even as UK taxpayers need homes and cancer drugs?

  17. dnspncr

    Your faith in this government is rather sweet. Any reduction in the £11bn spent on aid would not raise money for healthcare, more likely the defence budget would benefit. The NHS needs to be run into the ground, ready for TTIP.

  18. gunnerbear

    Fine the MoD gets the cash, but that is UK cash being spent on sustaining work in the UK.

  19. dnspncr

    My initial comment was about the scrapping of the ILF. In your reply you said that the money spent on foreign aid could be diverted to provide well-being and social support for UK citizens… my point is that scrapping aid wouldn’t raise funds for these areas.

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