Home Publisher's Point of View More Scientists Backing Idea of the ‘Sixth Extinction’

More Scientists Backing Idea of the ‘Sixth Extinction’

Glenn Hasek

Is the lodging industry contributing to the “Sixth Extinction”? It is a very important question to consider. Several years ago, Elizabeth Colbert wrote a book entitled, “The Sixth Extinction” that proposed we are headed for the first mankind-induced cataclysm—the first five mass extinctions being natural.

This past week an article was published in Science Advances to remind us again of the situation our planet faces. The article, entitled, “Accelerated modern human–induced species losses: Entering the sixth mass extinction,” has six authors, one of whom is Paul Ehrlich. In the 1960s, Ehrlich wrote “The Population Bomb,” a book that predicted the imminent collapse of humanity because of overpopulation.

In the article the authors detail an exceptionally rapid loss of biodiversity over the last few centuries, indicating that a sixth mass extinction is already under way. “Averting a dramatic decay of biodiversity and the subsequent loss of ecosystem services is still possible through intensified conservation efforts, but that window of opportunity is rapidly closing,” the authors say.

Dramatic Losses of Natural Life

Birds, mammals, reptiles, fishes and other organisms are disappearing at an alarming rate. According to coverage of the article in The New York Times, about 30 percent of all land vertebrates—mammals, birds, reptiles and amphibians—are experiencing declines and local population losses. In most parts of the world, mammal populations are losing 70 percent of their members because of habitat loss. In particular, they cite cheetahs, which have declined to around 7,000 members; Borneo and Sumatran orangutans, of which fewer than 5,000 remain; populations of African lions, which have declined by 43 percent since 1993; pangolins, which have been “decimated”; and giraffes, whose four species now number under 100,000 members.

“Although biologists cannot say precisely how many species there are, or exactly how many have gone extinct in any time interval, we can confidently conclude that modern extinction rates are exceptionally high, that they are increasing, and that they suggest a mass extinction under way—the sixth of its kind in Earth’s 4.5 billion years of history,” the authors state.

“If the currently elevated extinction pace is allowed to continue, humans will soon (in as little as three human lifetimes) be deprived of many biodiversity benefits,” the study’s authors say. “On human time scales, this loss would be effectively permanent because in the aftermath of past mass extinctions, the living world took hundreds of thousands to millions of years to rediversify. Avoiding a true sixth mass extinction will require rapid, greatly intensified efforts to conserve already threatened species and to alleviate pressures on their populations—notably habitat loss, overexploitation for economic gain, and climate change. All of these are related to human population size and growth, which increases consumption (especially among the rich), and economic inequity. However, the window of opportunity is rapidly closing.”

Minimize Your Impact

What can the lodging industry do to make a positive difference? Understanding its impact first is extremely important and many hotel companies have processes in place to do that. What is the environmental impact of a particular hotel? How can that impact be reduced using clean technology? Do new developments encroach on land where wildlife will be impacted? Are there corporate policies in place that ensure green development and the support of conservation efforts—even if those efforts are on the other side of the world? Is leadership on these issues driven from the top of your organization? What role can ecotourism play?

Here in Florida, all around me, trees are being felled and land cleared for new development. A thousand people a day are moving to the state. Each year the governor brags about tourism records being broken. Is that really all good news for the state? I often wonder.

It is easy to get caught up in the daily grind of our very local lives without seeing the bigger planet picture. We may not see extinction every day but it is happening. Be mindful of it and try very hard not to contribute to it.

Green Lodging News Adds HydroTech Solutions Case Study to Website

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Green Lodging News Adds Principle Brands as Directory Partner

Green Lodging News welcomes Principle Brands as a Green Product & Service Directory partner. Principle Brands provides distinctive adult and children’s amenities to the world’s finest hotels, resorts and spas. Each of the company’s collections, Bespoke, In-House, and Children’s, is formulated with pure botanicals. Call Mary Ann Pettorini at (202) 450-7392 or e-mail map@pbanddinc.com. Also see www.principlebrands.com.

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