Sunday, March 30, 2014

The Sixth Extinction

 "Crutzen wrote up his idea in a short essay, “Geology of Mankind,” that ran in Nature.  “It seems appropriate to assign the term ‘Anthropocene’ t the present, in many ways human-dominated geological epoch,’ he observed.  Among the many geologic-scale changes people have effected, Crutzen cited the following:

Human activity has transformed between a third and a half of the land surface of the planet.

Most of the worlds major rivers have been damned or diverted.Fertilizer plants produce more nitrogen than is fixed naturally by all terrestrial ecosystems. 

Fisheries remove more than a third of the primary production of the oceans’ coastal waters.Humans use more than half of the world’s readily accessible fresh water runoff."

Elizabeth Kolbert  The Sixth Extinction: An Unnatural History, Henry Holt and Company, New York, New York, 2014
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"what's exceptional about Kolbert's writing is the combination of scientific rigor and wry humor that keeps you turning the pages.

It's about people's amazing resourcefulness and concern, about people making more and more heroic efforts to try to save pieces of the natural world—and meanwhile it continues to be under greater and greater assault.

Is there any chance that wilderness will be the preservation of the world?
In a period of rapid change, one of the few things we know how to do is to try to leave as many places alone as possible. Big places, so that if things need to move they can, so that evolution can take its course. If these things can adapt, they will—but the point would be to give as many organisms as possible a chance to make it through this moment, by leaving food webs as intact as they still are. Many people said the same thing to me: That's our best shot.