Animal planet

The Sixth Mass Extinction

We are currently in the middle of the Sixth Mass Extinction on planet Earth. That’s right – the sixth one. The difference this time is that one species, Homo Sapiens (yup that’s you and me) is responsible.

Elizabeth Kolbert, author of the non-fiction book, The Sixth Extinction, maintains that we are living in the Anthropocene period of Earth’s history. A time period characterized by human beings’ attempts to manipulate our environment, resulting in the extinction or near-extinction of many different species.

Just as with Climate Change, there are those who would deny that human activity has such a negative impact on the Earth. They would say that climate change and mass extinctions are a natural part of Earth’s history. And they would be right – I mean this IS the Sixth Mass Extinction. However, the previous five weren’t caused by a single species. This one is. Us.

Some anthropologists would even argue that this mass extinction started thousands of years ago when man hunted pre-historic animals like the mastodon and the giant sloth to extinction. But it’s accelerated within the last 100 years during the Industrial Age when we began spewing carbon into the atmosphere.

Carbon emissions are causing global warming and increased temperatures in the oceans which destroys coral reefs. Increased ocean acidity is killing off clams, barnacles and starfish. There are currently 1414 species of fish at risk of extinction. Due mostly to overfishing.

The animals on the Endangered Species List categorized as Critically Endangered, Endangered and Vulnerable include leopards, rhinos, gorillas, orangutans, elephants, giraffes, porpoises, dolphins, whales, pandas, hippos, turtles, bears, bison and bees. Rainforest deforestation by farmers and ranchers will result in many species that will not survive the reduction in habitat. And the species that rely on them will also perish because the biodiversity of the rainforest is inner-connected.

That is the single most important FACT to take away from this. We are ALL inner-connected. What happens to elephants in Africa has an impact on humans in Detroit or Albuquerque or Poland. Fires in Australia are impacted by rains in Indonesia. The nuclear plant meltdown in Fukushima, Japan in 2011 is STILL spreading radiation throughout the Pacific Ocean killing fish, contaminating the water and exposing millions of Homo Sapiens (that’s US again) to radiation as far away as the west coast of the United States and beyond. Ocean currents will eventually carry the radiation across the globe.

Concerned? You should be. Not sure what to do? SPEAK UP!!! Contact your senators and representatives. Attend Climate Change rallies. VOTE for environmental candidates. Look at what one girl in Sweden started by skipping school and sitting outside the parliament on Fridays. Fridays For Our Future is now a global movement of young people and Greta Thunberg is Time magazine’s 2019 Person of the Year.

It’s not enough to simply reduce your use of plastic and recycle your newspapers. Time is running out. There is no second planet. The Earth needs us to act now.

Are You a Wayshower?

There are a lot of negative things happening in the world today. Political turmoil, gun violence, environmental destruction, corporate greed, mental illness, homelessness, economic inequity…the list goes on. You get it. It’s easy to become discouraged about the state of our world and to despair that we’re moving in the wrong direction and placing value on the wrong things. I know many of my friends feel that way. But I feel hopeful.

Why am I hopeful? Because I believe that this up swelling of negative, even evil occurrences is causing an equal, or even greater up swelling of positivity in response.

After 9/11, one of the most horrific occurrences to happen in our lifetimes, there was a huge coming together of people from all walks of life. We saw the first responders rush in. I saw a story narrated by Tom Hanks about all of the commercial and private boat owners who mobilized to rescue hundreds of thousands of New Yorkers stranded on Manhattan after the attack. It brought me to tears. For weeks, even months, afterwards people were kinder to one another. Reaching out to help whenever they could. Of course there were also incidences of retribution against Muslim-Americans. I personally reached out to a Muslim family in my neighborhood to see if they were okay. They were okay and the father and I spoke at length about the tragedy of humans attacking each other over religion. He said “there is only one God” and I agree.

What I see happening now is people waking up. Looking for a better way to live, to BE. Martha Beck, author, life coach and speaker, calls it being a Wayfinder. The slogan for her Life Coach Wayfinder course is Find The Way. Be the Way. We are all yearning to connect with one another. To find a deeper meaning in our lives. I recently read a Time Magazine special edition on Happiness. One of the themes recurring throughout the entire magazine is that things and money don’t bring us happiness. Experiences and relationships bring us happiness. Our capitalistic quest for more is not feeding our souls. It’s trying to fill a bottomless pit that can never be satisfied.

It’s not hard to find people and businesses that are Wayshowers. Focusing on healthy eating, healthy living, exercise, helping others, caring for the environment, opposing corporate greed and individual violence and caring for those less fortunate than ourselves are themes that I see all around me. I’m especially encouraged by our young people. Just look at what David Hogg and the Parkland shooting survivors are doing to end gun violence. What Greta Thunberg is doing to bring attention to climate change. What Malala Yousafzai is doing for girls education. The fact that Marianne Williamson, a spiritual teacher, author and activist, is running for president on the politics of love and getting a lot of positive attention is encouraging to me and represents a signpost of the direction I hope we are headed.

In my novel, Catalyst – May 2020 Brown Books Publishing, Marcie Horton, her brother, Eric and their friends are catalysts for change. For bringing a new focus to our world. Are you a catalyst, a Wayshower? You don’t have to do big, splashy things to be one. Start where you are. Don’t use plastic straws. Bring your own bags to the grocery store. Be kind. Pay it forward. Love one another. It all begins with you.