Introduction to "THE RISE AND FALL OF LIFE ON EARTH" by L Hatlett (see my post)
June 10, 2013 at 10:14 am #5611Larry HatlettMember
THE RISE AND FALL OF LIFE ON EARTH by LARRY HATLETT
A Louis Harris poll commissioned by New York’s American Museum of Natural History showed that 70 percent of the 5,000 members of the American Institute of Biological Sciences believe a new mass extinction is underway. The members predict that as many as 20 percent of all now living species will be extinct by 2030.
Much is being written about the sustainability of human civilization as we search for answers on how to endure our unending wars, deplorable poverty, and onrushing climate change–problems that we humans are perpetrating on ourselves. Little is being written about the sustainability of life itself as we ignore the bigger problem that we are creating, the unconscionable killing of animals, fish, birds, and trees in the wild brought about by our continued rapid growth in population and consumption.
Life is the most complex, rare, and beautiful of the universe’s miraculous wonders, and as far as we know it exists only on Earth. Other wonders such as matter, heat, sound, energy, and light abound, but not life. Where life came from is unknown, but what life does is grow in diversity and abundance through evolution by natural selection. At least that’s what it did for the first 3.8 billion years, creating all the current magnificent species–including lions, swordfish, humans, eagles, and redwood trees.
But now there is a crisis on Earth. Ever-increasing human population and its need for food is killing life in the wild. The habitats of animals and birds are disappearing as we build cities, factories, and roads. The forests are being mowed down to make land for agriculture. The seas are being emptied of fish. We have already caused the death of more than 40 percent of life, mostly in just the past 50 years.
The elephant is the largest of the living land mammals. Their intelligence is thought to be comparable to that of the dolphin and primates. They form complex social arrangements–family groups of mothers, daughters, sisters, and aunts, led by the matriarch. Two hundred and sixty years ago there were 10 million elephants roaming the savannas and forests of Africa. Now there are less than half a million, 90 percent have been killed. Their population continues to decline rapidly, as they lose habitat and are slaughtered (25 thousand times in 2012) by humans for their tusks. We use the ivory from the illegal tusks to make jewelry and ornaments.
What follows is a story of the amazing journey of life on Earth. It details the extraordinary astronomical features of Earth that allow the existence of life, the process of evolution that brought the current diversity of life forms, and the rapid growth in human population and consumption that has now set the course for a new mass extinction.
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