Mass Extinction: It’s the End of the World as We Know It

06 July 2015

Written by 
Dahr Jamail   By Dahr Jamail, Truthout | Interview

Guy McPherson is a professor emeritus of evolutionary biology, natural resources and ecology at the University of Arizona, and has been a climate change expert for 30 years. He has also become a controversial figure, due to the fact that he does not shy away from talking about the possibility of near-term human extinction.

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While McPherson’s perspective might sound like the stuff of science fiction, there is historical precedent for his predictions. Fifty-five million years ago, a 5-degree Celsius rise in average global temperatures seems to have occurred in just 13 years, according to a study published in the October 2013 issue of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. A report in the August 2013 issue of Science revealed that in the near term, earth’s climate will change 10 times faster than during any other moment in the last 65 million years.

McPherson fears that we are well along in the process of causing our own extinction.

Prior to that, the Permian mass extinction that occurred 250 million years ago, also known as the “Great Dying,” was triggered by a massive lava flow in an area of Siberia that led to an increase in global temperatures of 6 degrees Celsius. That, in turn, caused the melting of frozen methane deposits under the seas. Released into the atmosphere, those gases caused temperatures to skyrocket further. All of this occurred over a period of approximately 80,000 years. The change in climate is thought to be the key to what caused the extinction of most species on the planet. In that extinction episode, it is estimated that 95 percent of all species were wiped out.

Today’s current scientific and observable evidence strongly suggests we are in the midst of the same process – only this time it is anthropogenic, and happening exponentially faster than even the Permian mass extinction did.

In fact, a recently published study in Science Advances states, unequivocally, that the planet has officially entered its sixth mass extinction event. The study shows that species are already being killed off at rates much faster than they were during the other five extinction events, and warns ominously that humans could very likely be among the first wave of species to go extinct.

So if some feel that McPherson’s thinking is extreme, when the myriad scientific reports he cites to back his claims are looked at squarely and the dots are connected, the perceived extremism begins to dissolve into a possible, or even likely, reality.

The idea of possible human extinction, coming not just from McPherson but a growing number of scientists (as well as the aforementioned recently published report in Science), is now beginning to occasionally find its way into mainstream consciousness.

“A Child Born Today May Live to See Humanity’s End, Unless …” reads a recent blog post title from Reuters. It reads:

Humans will be extinct in 100 years because the planet will be uninhabitable, according to Australian microbiologist Frank Fenner, one of the leaders of the effort to eradicate smallpox in the 1970s. He blames overcrowding, denuded resources and climate change. Fenner’s prediction is not a sure bet, but he is correct that there is no way emissions reductions will be enough to save us from our trend toward doom. And there doesn’t seem to be any big global rush to reduce emissions, anyway.

McPherson, who maintains the blog “Nature Bats Last,” told Truthout, “We’ve never been here as a species and the implications are truly dire and profound for our species and the rest of the living planet.”

Truthout first interviewed McPherson in early 2014, at which time he had identified 24 self-reinforcing positive feedback loops triggered by human-caused climate disruption. Today that number has grown to more than 50, and continues to increase.

A self-reinforcing positive feedback loop is akin to a “vicious circle”: It accelerates the impacts of anthropogenic climate disruption (ACD). An example would be methane releases in the Arctic. Massive amounts of methane are currently locked in the permafrost, which is now melting rapidly. As the permafrost melts, methane – a greenhouse gas 100 times more potent than carbon dioxide on a short timescale – is released into the atmosphere, warming it further, which in turn causes more permafrost to melt, and so on.

As soon as this summer, we are likely to begin seeing periods of an ice-free Arctic. (Those periods will arrive by the summer of 2016 at the latest, according to a Naval Postgraduate School report.)

Once the summer ice begins melting away completely, even for short periods, methane releases will worsen dramatically.

Is it possible that, on top of the vast quantities of carbon dioxide from fossil fuels that continue to enter the atmosphere in record amounts yearly, an increased release of methane could signal the beginning of the sort of process that led to the Great Dying?

McPherson, like the scientists involved in the recent study that confirms the arrival of the sixth great extinction, fears that the situation is already so serious and so many self-reinforcing feedback loops are already in play that we are well along in the process of causing our own extinction.

Furthermore, McPherson remains convinced that it could happen far more quickly than generally believed possible – in the course of just the next few decades, or even sooner.

Truthout caught up with McPherson in Washington State, where he was recently on a lecture tour, sharing his dire analysis of how far along we already are regarding ACD.

Dahr Jamail: How many positive feedback loops have you identified up until now, and what does this ever-increasing number of them indicate?

Guy McPherson: I can’t quite wrap my mind around the ever-increasing number of self-reinforcing feedback loops. A long time ago, when there were about 20 of them, I believed evidence would accumulate in support of existing loops, but we couldn’t possibly identify any more. Ditto for when we hit 30. And 40. There are more than 50 now, and the hits keep coming. And the evidence for existing feedback loops continues to grow.

In addition to these positive feedback loops “feeding” within themselves, they also interact among each other. Methane released from the Arctic Ocean is exacerbated and contributes to reduced albedo [reflectivity of solar radiation by the ice] as the Arctic ice declines. Tack on the methane released from permafrost and it’s obvious we’re facing a shaky future for humanity.


What Meat Eaters Get Wrong About Vegetarians

Originally posted on TIME:

I was 20 years old and working on a political campaign when I first visited a slaughterhouse. There I saw dead chickens swinging like pale acrobats on a conveyor belt suspended over a vat, and I met a man who called himself, with only a hint of irony, a “goop scooper.” I walked out with the vague idea that I might become a vegetarian one day.

Years later, I stopped eating meat and chicken. On rare occasions, I still have fish, but that grows increasingly less common as the years go by. I am not a vegetable evangelist; I happily coexist with carnivorous members of my family and have friends who worship at the shrine of cooked cow. But permit me to dispense with three myths about vegetarians on behalf of those who, like me, favor beans over beef.

[time-brightcove videoid=4247324380001]

1.Vegetarians are self-righteous. Friends, self-righteousness is a…

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Desperate Cow Does The Unthinkable To Escape Slaughter

This steer was ready to die for his freedom. They still wouldn’t give it to him.

The heartbreaking episode happened earlier this week when the frightened animal escaped from his handlers at an Australian dock. He was about to be loaded onto an export ship bound for Vietnam, where he would be slaughtered.

He had already endured a grueling journey, packed onto an overcrowded truck and driven from his home to the busy port, and was stressed and scared by all the new sights and sounds. When officials arrived to recapture him he was “freaking out,” they told Australia’s ABC news.

Facebook/Litchfield Council

They shot the steer with two sedation darts. But the petrified animal refused to let himself be recaptured. “He took one look at us and was like: ‘Oh no,'” Will Green, a ranger who responded to the incident, told ABC.

Instead, the brave steer turned right around — and hurled himself off the 25-foot tall dock into the crocodile-infested water below. Even as the sedatory drugs began to course through his system, he was determined to do whatever he could to escape.

This sad story raises even more questions about Australia’s live export industry, which has attracted growing concern from animal lovers worldwide. Each year the country exports millions of live animals for slaughter — to countries that have little or no animal protection laws.

Facebook/Litchfield Council

More than 2.5 million animals have died over the past 30 years from the terrible conditions during the journey abroad, and those that make the trip face a fate even worse than those of factory farmed animals.

One recent investigation by Animals Australia showed that animals sent to Vietnam, where this unlucky steer was destined for, were being sledgehammered to death; another 2015 investigation revealed that cows sent to Israel were having their throats slit and being strung up while fully conscious.

Unfortunately, this steer didn’t have a better fate. With the help of a local fisherman, officials lassoed the frightened animal. When faced with the option of bringing him back to port or hoisting him onto the export ship, they chose the latter.

So they wrapped the scared steer in a fishing net and dumped his tired body onto the ship that would bring him to his death.

Facebook/Litchfield Council

If you’d like to stop Australia’s live export of animals, you can click here to join the nearly 500,000 people who have signed a petition calling for it to end. You can also donate to Animal Australia’s campaign here.

Island Nation Burns Boats to Deter Illegal Fishing

The president of Palau decries those who are “raping our marine environment.”

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Texas game warden wounded while illegally hunting avoided felony charges, kept job

AUSTIN — A Texas Parks and Wildlife game warden who was illegally hunting when he was shot in 2013 was allowed to keep his job and face a fine rather than felony charges, according to a newspaper report Sunday.

Off-duty Game Warden Chris Fried was bow hunting without a permit when he was shot in December 2013. But he had also hunted without permits at least three times during the 2013-2014 license year, an investigation by the Austin American-Statesman found.

Instead of facing felony charges or dismissal upon his shooting, though, Fried got a ticket for about $800.

That’s because a Parks and Wildlife Department-led investigation found Fried transitioned “into a game warden law enforcement mode” just before he was shot. That let him file for workers’ compensation for the injury.

The state agency that issues workers’ compensation won’t say whether Fried received money. However, state rules say an insurance carrier isn’t liable for an injury suffered during off-duty recreational activity.

Two men from Illinois were charged in connection with Fried’s shooting, but their lawyers say it was an accident.

Parks and Wildlife Department spokesman Josh Havens said the agency “stands by the accuracy of its internal investigation.” He said Fried didn’t receive preferential treatment.

Fried disclosed his violation of hunting rules while still hospitalized and recovering from the shooting. Last fall, he got a reprimand from his Parks and Wildlife Department superiors.

In a response from last July to state inquiries about why he violated hunting rules, Fried wrote, “I have no excuses for my actions.” Among his hunting violations: killing a white-tailed buck on public land without a permit, which is punishable as a state jail felony.

Instead, authorities filed misdemeanor charges against Fried that resulted in a fine of $769.88. Havens said that’s consistent with how Texas typically prosecutes illegal hunting.

Over the past five years, there have been 10 charges filed for hunting on public lands without the proper permit that also involved the illegal taking of a deer. And all were misdemeanors that required restitution to be paid for the illegal harvest of dear.

State officials also eventually directed that Fried be suspended without pay for 30 days and be made ineligible for promotion or pay increases for two years. He also was banned from hunting on any Texas wildlife management area as long as he remains a Texas Parks and Wildlife employee. But the workers’ compensation wasn’t addressed.

This past January, Fried also was ordered to attend the ethics class at the game warden training academy as part of continuing discipline for his hunting violations.

Police reports say the shooting occurred when the men arrested were in the barn at a private ranch and one of them fired a rifle at a sign attached to the boundary fence separating the private property from the state wildlife management area. Just then, Fried was making his way through the woods.

The shooter, initially charged with a felony, eventually received two years of deferred adjudication, but only for damage to the fence. Other charges were dismissed, attorneys said.

The shooter’s friend still faces a misdemeanor charge of not reporting the accident.

Ltr: Don’t cater to trophy hunters when it comes to wolves

Some members of Congress are catering to trophy hunters by proposing to remove Endangered Species Act protection for wolves. The federal government tried this in several states, the states immediately opened hunting seasons, and wolf numbers plummeted. The fate of these animals should be determined by science, not Congress.

The stories about wolves constantly gobbling up all livestock and children are myths. They only account for just 0.1 percent to 0.6 percent of all livestock deaths. There have been no documented attacks by wolves on people in the lower 48 states.

Let’s be clear: hunting wolves is completely counterintuitive. It actually increases the tendency of wolves to pray on livestock because it breaks up stable wolf packs and allows younger animals to start breeding and expanding into new territories.

Wolves are trying to survive after centuries of persecution. I would like to urge my Representative, Brenda Lawrence, to support keeping federal protections for wolves.

Please contact your Congressional representative and let them know you want our remaining wolves to stay protected under the Endangered Species Act.

Kristina Pepelko,

West Bloomfield

copyrighted wolf in river

Fish Smarts: Why Fish Are More Than Just Streams of Protein

Fish are smart, sentient, and know a lot about themselves and others
by Marc Bekoff Ph.D. on Jul 05, 2015 in Animal Emotions

I’m always looking for interesting and “surprising” discoveries about animal cognition and emotions to share with readers and today I learned about two excellent and brief summaries of some of the latest news about the cognitive lives of fish — what they know about themselves and others. In the past I’ve written a lot about fish sentience because fish often get the short end of the stick when people write about the cognitive and emotional lives of vertebrates (please also see “Fish have feelings too: Expert claims creatures experience pain in the same way humans do – and should be treated better (link is external)” in which it is noted, “Fish have good memories, build complicated structures and show behaviour seen in primates – as well as feeling pain like us”). Indeed, fish were omitted from the list of animals mentioned in the Cambridge Declaration on Consciousness, issued in July 2013 (please see “Scientists Finally Conclude Nonhuman Animals Are Conscious Beings“) when they should have been included. At the time the declaration was issued we knew a lot about fish sentience and cognition and their omission is regrettable and indefensible..

An excellent review of research on fish cognition and emotions can be found in Macquarie University’s Culum Brown’s (link is external) essay called “Fish intelligence, sentience and ethics (link is external),” published in the peer reviewed journal Animal Cognition. A very interesting and important interview with Dr. Brown by Farm Sanctuary’s Bruce Freidrich (link is external) can be read here (link is external).

The abstract for Dr. Brown’s essay reads as follows: Fish are one of the most highly utilised vertebrate taxa by humans; they are harvested from wild stocks as part of global fishing industries, grown under intensive aquaculture conditions, are the most common pet and are widely used for scientific research. But fish are seldom afforded the same level of compassion or welfare as warm-blooded vertebrates. Part of the problem is the large gap between people’s perception of fish intelligence and the scientific reality. This is an important issue because public perception guides government policy. The perception of an animal’s intelligence often drives our decision whether or not to include them in our moral circle. From a welfare perspective, most researchers would suggest that if an animal is sentient, then it can most likely suffer and should therefore be offered some form of formal protection. There has been a debate about fish welfare for decades which centres on the question of whether they are sentient or conscious. The implications for affording the same level of protection to fish as other vertebrates are great, not least because of fishing-related industries. Here, I review the current state of knowledge of fish cognition starting with their sensory perception and moving on to cognition. The review reveals that fish perception and cognitive abilities often match or exceed other vertebrates. A review of the evidence for pain perception strongly suggests that fish experience pain in a manner similar to the rest of the vertebrates. Although scientists cannot provide a definitive answer on the level of consciousness for any non-human vertebrate, the extensive evidence of fish behavioural and cognitive sophistication and pain perception suggests that best practice would be to lend fish the same level of protection as any other vertebrate.

This weekend I learned about an essay by Abigail Geer called “5 Incredible Fish Behaviors That Show Just How Intelligent They Really Are (link is external)” that nicely summarizes some of the latest research on fish cognition. Ms. Geer writes about mutual cooperation, how fish cheat others, how they form hunting partnerships, how they signal to others using their body, and how they know to eat food that will disappear shortly. She concludes her essay as follows: “As humans, we have developed a very self centric view of the world, where we judge all other species by our own perception of them. For us to develop into a more compassionate society, which is not responsible for the murder of billions of animals each year, we must learn to understand and respect each and every animal on the planet for who they are.”

Primates aren’t all that special 

Ms. Geer’s essay is based mainly on the work of noted fish researcher Redouan Bshary (link is external), who’s groundbreaking research is summarized in an essay by Alison Abbott called “Animal behaviour: Inside the cunning, caring and greedy minds of fish (link is external)” published in the prestigious journal Nature. Both Ms. Geer and Ms. Abbott’s essays are easy reads and I highly suggest them. Research on the cognitive and emotional lives of fish are showing that non-human primates aren’t all that special. Emory University’s world renowned primate researcher Frans de Waal (link is external)notes, “Primate chauvinism may now be poised to decline, thanks in large part to Bshary’s fish work.” Claims about nonhuman primate and human exceptionalism must be carefully re-evaluated because this sort of speciesism can be seriously called into question based on solid scientific research.

Fish should be included in our moral circle

So, what does the latest research on fish cognition and emotions mean in terms of how we treat them? In her very interesting book called Do Fish Feel Pain? (link is external) Victoria Braithwaite (link is external) concluded, “I have argued that there is as much evidence that fish feel pain and suffer as there is for birds and mammals — and more than there is for human neonates and preterm babies.” (page 153).

It’s high time that we use what we know on behalf of fish and other animals who are used and abused in the countless billions. Fish clearly are not things nor disposable objects or mere streams of protein, but rather sentient and feeling beings, a point stressed in Farm Sanctuary’s “Someone, Not Something (link is external)” project.

In a recent interview with Hope Ferdowsian (link is external) I noted, “There still is a lot of work to be done but there is no doubt in my mind and heart that we can make the world a much better place – a more compassionate home — for nonhumans and humans. It isn’t going to be easy but that’s just the way it is. Every one who can do something positive must do what she/he can do. We need to be activists, not slacktivists. We all must walk the talk and not expect others to do what we can and should do. I remain optimistic because of all the wonderful people who are out there working for all animals and their homes. We must remember that compassion begets compassion and violence begets violence. I love the saying, ‘The world becomes what you teach,’ espoused by the Institute for Humane Education (link is external).”

It is essential that a broad audience knows what we are learning about fish from detailed empirical research. As noted above, Dr. Brown concludes his essay as follows: “Although scientists cannot provide a definitive answer on the level of consciousness for any non-human vertebrate, the extensive evidence of fish behavioural and cognitive sophistication and pain perception suggests that best practice would be to lend fish the same level of protection as any other vertebrate.” I couldn’t agree more. Fish and all other animals need all the help they can get and we need to use what we learn from empirical research on their behalf.

Note: I just learned of a most valuable essay by B. Wren Patton and Victoria Braithwaite called “Changing tides: ecological and historical perspectives on fish cognition (link is external),” the abstract of which concludes, “Never before has the field had such a wide array of interdisciplinary techniques available to access both cognitive and mechanistic processes underpinning fish behavior. This capacity comes at a critical time to predict and manage fish populations in an era of unprecedented global change.” You can also watch an interview with Dr. Braithwaite here (link is external) about why fish need to be treated humanely.

Marc Bekoff’s latest books are Jasper’s story: Saving moon bears (with Jill Robinson), Ignoring nature no more: The case for compassionate conservationWhy dogs hump and bees get depressed, and Rewilding our hearts: Building pathways of compassion and coexistenceThe Jane effect: Celebrating Jane Goodall (edited with Dale Peterson) has recently been published. (; @MarcBekoff)

Man mocks alligators, jumps in water, dies

Originally posted on Q13 FOX News:

(CNN) A man who apparently mocked alligators, then jumped in the water — despite warning signs — is dead after being attacked in Texas.

Orange County Police were called to Burkart’s Marina near the Louisiana state line early Friday morning after reports that Tommie Woodward, 28, and an unidentified woman were swimming in a bayou and had been attacked by a large alligator.

Woodward’s body was found several hours later. The woman was not injured.

Orange County Justice of the Peace Rodney Price told CNN affiliate KFDM that Woodward ignored verbal warnings and a posted “No Swimming Alligators” sign and seemed to mock the deadly creatures before going in the water.

“He removed his shirt, removed his billfold … someone shouted a warning and he said ‘blank the alligators’ and jumped in to the water and almost immediately yelled for help,” Price said.

The “No Swimming Alligators” sign was posted…

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Hunting Show Too ‘Politically Incorrect’ For Canadian TV

Ammoland recently published a story on the Beaseley brothers’ hunting show Canada in the Rough, which airs in 27 countries but can’t find a television station or broadcaster willing to air it in Canada.

According to Ammoland, Canada In The Rough “ran on Global TV for eight years until the day Keith Beasley received a telephone call from a Global network executive telling him that the network would no longer sell him airtime for Canada in the Rough.”

And Keith Beasley claims the reason behind the cancellation is simple: “Canada in the Rough shows hunting and firearms ownership in a positive light.”

The Beasley brothers said:

It had nothing to do with ratings, and it had nothing to do with what we were. It had everything to do with our content. Our content was guns and hunting. And just like that, the Canadian hunting landscape changed on a dime, and we’ve never recovered from it.

Ammoland paraphrased the Global TV rationale: “Hunting is politically incorrect [and the network no longer] had the courage to continue televising this Canadian outdoor heritage activity.”

So, programs that show hunting as a conservation and subsistence practice, which are the things hunting ultimately boils down to, cannot be shown, even in a country where people travel from all over the world to hunt.

Why? Because political correctness dictates it.

What if there were no Mexican gray wolves in Arizona?

What If: Paul Gosar, Defender of Wildlife debate the impact of the Mexican grey wolf in Arizona.

What would happen if there were no Mexican grey wolves in Arizona? We asked two experts to weigh in on federal programs to reintroduce the species



Arizona would be identical to Texas in that respect and the Mexican wolf population would more closely resemble its historic range (90 percent of the Mexican wolf’s original habitat is in Mexico).

However, I am not advocating for Mexican gray wolf eradication. I simply want the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to leave species conservation efforts to the states, to comply with federal law, and to stop implementing a flawed experimental program that poses a serious threat to Arizona ranchers, citizens and economies.

Mexican wolves have repeatedly stalked citizens, devastated big game herds and killed livestock. In Catron County, N.M., the wolf’s presence has resulted in a $5 million economic hit and “1,172 calves lost annually,” according to the Southwest Center for Resource Analysis.

In January, Fish and Wildlife implemented new regulations that dramatically expanded the area Mexican wolves can roam and designated the wolf as an endangered subspecies. The agency acknowledged its failure to secure appropriations prior to implementing the new regs, in violation of federal law.

The Mexican wolf has lingered on the Endangered Species list for nearly 40 years. During that time, Fish and Wildlife has failed to work with local stakeholders and has been using an illegal recovery program, as it is not based on the best available science and fails to establish a recovery goal. Arizona recently sued as a result.

The agency has acknowledged the recovery plan violates federal law and that the new regulations will not result in a de-listing. In the U.S., the Mexican wolf population now exceeds the primary goal of 100 wolves, and there are another 250 in captivity. The wolf is no longer in danger of extinction.

The bipartisan Mexican Wolf Transparency and Accountability Act rejects the new January mandates as Arizonans deserve a viable solution that adequately protects local communities.

U.S. Rep. Paul Gosar is a Republican representing Arizona.



If there were no Mexican gray wolves in Arizona, this rarest gray wolf would be on a direct path to extinction. Essentially eradicated from the southwestern United States by the 1930s, the Mexican gray wolf It is one of the most endangered mammals in North America. There are fewer than 120 wild Mexican gray wolves in the entire world: 109 in Arizona and New Mexico and a handful in Mexico.

Why does that matter? Lobos hold profound cultural significance in our region, and are important apex predators that contribute to the environmental health of the areas they inhabit. Sadly, despite the work that has been done to recover them, the Mexican gray wolf is still noticeably rare on our beautiful landscape in Arizona. The truth is, Without lobos, Arizona would not be safer or more productive, but it would be lacking an iconic part of our heritage.

No one has ever been killed by a Mexican gray wolf, and in Arizona, wolves account for less than 1 percent of total cattle and calf losses. On the other hand, 87 percent of voters polled in Arizona agree that wolves are a “vital part of America’s wilderness and natural heritage,” and 83 percent of Arizonans agree that “the US Fish and Wildlife Service should make every effort to help wolves recover and prevent extinction.”

To lose the lobo would be a tragedy of our lifetime.

Eva Sargent is Southwest program director for Defenders of Wildlife.