Did Humans Survive an Extinction Level Event?

November 30, 2019  Topic: History  Region: Europe  Blog Brand: The Buzz  Tags: EvolutionHumansExtinctionAnthropologySurvival

Warfare became a check on population growth, perhaps the most important one.

Nine human species walked the Earth 300,000 years ago. Now there is just one. The Neanderthals, Homo neanderthalensis, were stocky hunters adapted to Europe’s cold steppes. The related Denisovans inhabited Asia, while the more primitive Homo erectus lived in Indonesia, and Homo rhodesiensis in central Africa.

Several short, small-brained species survived alongside them: Homo naledi in South Africa, Homo luzonensis in the Philippines, Homo floresiensis (“hobbits”) in Indonesia, and the mysterious Red Deer Cave People in China. Given how quickly we’re discovering new species, more are likely waiting to be found.

By 10,000 years ago, they were all gone. The disappearance of these other species resembles a mass extinction. But there’s no obvious environmental catastrophe – volcanic eruptions, climate change, asteroid impact – driving it. Instead, the extinctions’ timing suggests they were caused by the spread of a new species, evolving 260,000-350,000 years ago in Southern AfricaHomo sapiens.

The spread of modern humans out of Africa has caused a sixth mass extinction, a greater than 40,000-year event extending from the disappearance of Ice Age mammals to the destruction of rainforests by civilisation today. But were other humans the first casualties?

Human evolution. Nick Longrich

We are a uniquely dangerous species. We hunted wooly mammoths, ground sloths and moas to extinction. We destroyed plains and forests for farming, modifying over half the planet’s land area. We altered the planet’s climate. But we are most dangerous to other human populations, because we compete for resources and land.

History is full of examples of people warring, displacing and wiping out other groups over territory, from Rome’s destruction of Carthage, to the American conquest of the West and the British colonisation of Australia. There have also been recent genocides and ethnic cleansing in Bosnia, Rwanda and Myanmar. Like language or tool use, a capacity for and tendency to engage in genocide is arguably an intrinsic, instinctive part of human nature. There’s little reason to think that early Homo sapiens were less territorial, less violent, less intolerant – less human.

Optimists have painted early hunter-gatherers as peaceful, noble savages, and have argued that our culture, not our nature, creates violence. But field studies, historical accounts, and archaeology all show that war in primitive cultures was intense, pervasive and lethal. Neolithic weapons such as clubs, spears, axes and bows, combined with guerrilla tactics like raids and ambushes, were devastatingly effective. Violence was the leading cause of death among men in these societies, and wars saw higher casualty levels per person than World Wars I and II.

Old bones and artefacts show this violence is ancient. The 9,000-year-old Kennewick Man, from North America, has a spear point embedded in his pelvis. The 10,000-year-old Nataruk site in Kenya documents the brutal massacre of at least 27 men, women, and children.

It’s unlikely that the other human species were much more peaceful. The existence of cooperative violence in male chimps suggests that war predates the evolution of humans. Neanderthal skeletons show patterns of trauma consistent with warfare. But sophisticated weapons likely gave Homo sapiens a military advantage. The arsenal of early Homo sapiens probably included projectile weapons like javelins and spear-throwers, throwing sticks and clubs.

Complex tools and culture would also have helped us efficiently harvest a wider range of animals and plants, feeding larger tribes, and giving our species a strategic advantage in numbers.

The ultimate weapon

But cave paintingscarvings, and musical instruments hint at something far more dangerous: a sophisticated capacity for abstract thought and communication. The ability to cooperate, plan, strategisemanipulate and deceive may have been our ultimate weapon.

The incompleteness of the fossil record makes it hard to test these ideas. But in Europe, the only place with a relatively complete archaeological record, fossils show that within a few thousand years of our arrival , Neanderthals vanished. Traces of Neanderthal DNA in some Eurasian people prove we didn’t just replace them after they went extinct. We met, and we mated.

Elsewhere, DNA tells of other encounters with archaic humans. East Asian, Polynesian and Australian groups have DNA from Denisovans. DNA from another species, possibly Homo erectus, occurs in many Asian people. African genomes show traces of DNA from yet another archaic species. The fact that we interbred with these other species proves that they disappeared only after encountering us.

But why would our ancestors wipe out their relatives, causing a mass extinction – or, perhaps more accurately, a mass genocide?

13,000-year-old spear points from Colorado. Chip Clark, Smithsonian Institution

The answer lies in population growth. Humans reproduce exponentially, like all species. Unchecked, we historically doubled our numbers every 25 years. And once humans became cooperative hunters, we had no predators. Without predation controlling our numbers, and little family planning beyond delayed marriage and infanticide, populations grew to exploit the available resources.

Further growth, or food shortages caused by drought, harsh winters or overharvesting resources would inevitably lead tribes into conflict over food and foraging territory. Warfare became a check on population growth, perhaps the most important one.

Our elimination of other species probably wasn’t a planned, coordinated effort of the sort practised by civilisations, but a war of attrition. The end result, however, was just as final. Raid by raid, ambush by ambush, valley by valley, modern humans would have worn down their enemies and taken their land.

Yet the extinction of Neanderthals, at least, took a long time – thousands of years. This was partly because early Homo sapiens lacked the advantages of later conquering civilisations: large numbers, supported by farming, and epidemic diseases like smallpox, flu, and measles that devastated their opponents. But while Neanderthals lost the war, to hold on so long they must have fought and won many battles against us, suggesting a level of intelligence close to our own.

The Conversation————————————————————————————————————–

Nick Longrich, Senior Lecturer, Paleontology and Evolutionary Biology, University of Bath

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Image: Reuters

Climate crisis: 11,000 scientists warn of ‘untold suffering’

A man uses a garden hose to try to save his home from wildfire in Granada Hills, California, on 11 October 2019.
 A man uses a garden hose to try to save his home from wildfire in Granada Hills, California, on 11 October 2019. Photograph: Michael Owen Baker/AP

The world’s people face “untold suffering due to the climate crisis” unless there are major transformations to global society, according to a stark warning from more than 11,000 scientists.

“We declare clearly and unequivocally that planet Earth is facing a climate emergency,” it states. “To secure a sustainable future, we must change how we live. [This] entails major transformations in the ways our global society functions and interacts with natural ecosystems.”

There is no time to lose, the scientists say: “The climate crisis has arrived and is accelerating faster than most scientists expected. It is more severe than anticipated, threatening natural ecosystems and the fate of humanity.”

The statement is published in the journal BioScience on the 40th anniversary of the first world climate conference, which was held in Geneva in 1979. The statement was a collaboration of dozens of scientists and endorsed by further 11,000 from 153 nations. The scientists say the urgent changes needed include ending population growth, leaving fossil fuels in the ground, halting forest destruction and slashing meat eating.

Prof William Ripple, of Oregon State University and the lead author of the statement, said he was driven to initiate it by the increase in extreme weather he was seeing. A key aim of the warning is to set out a full range of “vital sign” indicators of the causes and effects of climate breakdown, rather than only carbon emissions and surface temperature rise.

“A broader set of indicators should be monitored, including human population growth, meat consumption, tree-cover loss, energy consumption, fossil-fuel subsidies and annual economic losses to extreme weather events,” said co-author Thomas Newsome, of the University of Sydney.

Other “profoundly troubling signs from human activities” selected by the scientists include booming air passenger numbers and world GDP growth. “The climate crisis is closely linked to excessive consumption of the wealthy lifestyle,” they said.

As a result of these human activities, there are “especially disturbing” trends of increasing land and ocean temperatures, rising sea levels and extreme weather events, the scientists said: “Despite 40 years of global climate negotiations, with few exceptions, we have have largely failed to address this predicament. Especially worrisome are potential irreversible climate tipping points. These climate chain reactions could cause significant disruptions to ecosystems, society, and economies, potentially making large areas of Earth uninhabitable.”

“We urge widespread use of the vital signs [to] allow policymakers and the public to understand the magnitude of the crisis, realign priorities and track progress,” the scientists said.

“You don’t need to be a rocket scientist to look at the graphs and know things are going wrong,” said Newsome. “But it is not too late.” The scientists identify some encouraging signs, including decreasing global birth rates, increasing solar and wind power and fossil fuel divestment. Rates of forest destruction in the Amazon had also been falling until a recent increase under new president Jair Bolsonaro.

They set out a series of urgently needed actions:

  • Use energy far more efficiently and apply strong carbon taxes to cut fossil fuel use
  • Stabilise global population – currently growing by 200,000 people a day – using ethical approaches such as longer education for girls
  • End the destruction of nature and restore forests and mangroves to absorb CO2
  • Eat mostly plants and less meat, and reduce food waste
  • Shift economic goals away from GDP growth

“The good news is that such transformative change, with social and economic justice for all, promises far greater human well-being than does business as usual,” the scientists said. The recent surge of concern was encouraging, they added, from the global school strikes to lawsuits against polluters and some nations and businesses starting to respond.

warning of the dangers of pollution and a looming mass extinction of wildlife on Earth, also led by Ripple, was published in 2017. It was supported by more than 15,000 scientists and read out in parliaments from Canada to Israel. It came 25 years after the original “World Scientists’ Warning to Humanity” in 1992, which said: “A great change in our stewardship of the Earth and the life on it is required, if vast human misery is to be avoided.”

Ripple said scientists have a moral obligation to issue warnings of catastrophic threats: “It is more important than ever that we speak out, based on evidence. It is time to go beyond just research and publishing, and to go directly to the citizens and policymakers.”

Fixing Livestock Emissions Metrics

Are we looking at the livestock industry's GHG emissions holistically—and can a new framework help turn livestock into a solution for climate change?

Justin Bieber’s $35k part-exotic kittens are not a hit with PETA

 

https://www.cnn.com/2019/10/04/entertainment/justin-bieber-kittens-peta-trnd/?

Justin Bieber defends his $35k cats against PETA scrutiny 01:20
(CNN)Justin Bieber and PETA are engaged in a cat fight.

It all centers around the singer’s part-exotic kittens, Sushi and Tuna.
According to The Hollywood Reporter, Bieber paid $35,000 for the pair of Savannah breed cats from Illinois-based breeder Select Exotics.
“Baby, baby, baby, nooooooo,” PETA said in a statement to CNN. “Justin Bieber could inspire his fans around the world to save a life by adopting a cat from a local animal shelter — rather than fueling the dangerous demand for hybrid cats, contributing to the animal overpopulation crisis, and proving that when it comes to helping animals, his stance so far is ‘I don’t care.'”
Select Exotics’ website says Savannah cats are “a Serval/domestic feline cross” that is “the largest hybrid cat available today.”
“Bright, inventive, intelligent, even ingenious, playful, charming, and intensely energetic, the personable Savannah cat is very dog-like,” the site said. “Readily trainable, most love to play fetch, ride in cars, and relish outdoor walks on a leash.”
The kittens were purchased in the weeks leading up to Bieber’s second wedding to his wife, the former Hailey Baldwin, and he’s clearly enamored with them.
So much so that he launched a @kittysushiandtuna Instagram account to document their lives in the Bieber household.
The Biebs didn’t take too kindly to PETA’s statement.
He posted a screen shot of a story about PETA protesting his purchase on his Instagram stories, writing “PETA can suck it.”
“PETA go focus on real problems. Like poaching and animal brutality,” he wrote in a note posted on his Instagram stories. “Ur tripping because I want a specific kind of cat? U weren’t tripping when I got my dog Oscar and he wasn’t a rescue.”
Bieber added that he believes “in adopting rescues but also think there are preferences and that’s what breeders are for.”
“PETA go help with all the plastic in the ocean, and leave my beautiful cats alone,” he ended his note.
On Friday, PETA responded to Bieber in another statement provided to CNN.
PETA President Ingrid Newkirk said “Sorry, Justin, but you must think more deeply about this issue: When millions of animals are losing their lives every year because not enough people adopt — choosing instead to shop — the animal overpopulation crisis is a ‘real problem.'”
“That’s what ‘sucks,'” she said. “PETA urges you to spend just one hour in a municipal animal shelter with us — we think you’ll understand how hard it is to look into the animals’ eyes and know that because people pay breeders, many of them will pay with their lives. You have the power to be a great role model on this issue — your behavior guides that of tons of your fans — so please put that to good use.”

Distraught woman at AOC town hall urges ‘eating babies’ to fight climate change

‘Get rid of the babies!’:

QUEENS, New York — A seemingly troubled woman at a town hall hosted by Democratic New York Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez in her district stood up to demand the congresswoman support drastic measures to combat climate change, such as “eating babies.”

“We’re not going to be here for much longer, because of the climate crisis,” the woman pleaded. “We only have a few months left. I love that you support the Green Deal, but it’s not gonna get rid of fossil fuel. It’s not going to solve the problem fast enough. A Swedish professor said we can eat dead people, but it’s not fast enough! So, I think your next campaign slogan needs to be this: We’ve got to start eating babies.”

Many of Ocasio-Cortez’s constituents appeared confused by the woman’s declarations.

Removing her jacket to reveal a T-shirt with the phrase “Save the planet Eat the Children,” the woman continued, “We don’t have a enough time. There’s too much Co2.”

“All of you!” she went on, turning to those around her, “You’re a pollutant! Too much Co2. We have to start now. Please — you are so great. I’m so happy that you are supporting a Green New Deal, but it’s not enough. Even if we were to bomb Russia, it’s not enough. There’s too many people, too much pollution. So, we have to get rid of the babies. That’s a big problem. Just stopping having babies just isn’t enough. We need to eat the babies. This is very serious. Please give a response.”

Staffers of the New York congresswoman approached the woman toward the end of her remarks, as attendees in the room became increasingly uncomfortable.

Click here for more from the Washington Examiner. 

 

Mountain lion known for crossing 405 killed on the same Los Angeles freeway

The mountain lion, known as P-61 to researchers, was struck and killed on the 405 freeway.

(CNN)A mountain lion known for crossing the Los Angeles 405 freeway was struck and killed by a vehicle early Saturday morning, according to National Park Service (NPS) Ranger Ana Beatriz.

The mountain lion known as P-61 lived in the Santa Monica mountains near the Sepulveda Pass, Beatriz said in a statement. He wore a radio collar around his neck so researchers could track his movements.
The 405 freeway through the Sepulveda pass

The 4-year-old cat’s final GPS point showed him between Bel Air Crest Road and the Sepulveda Boulevard underpass.
City of Los Angeles Animal Control officer retrieved his body, the Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area said on Facebook.
It appears he was trying to cross the 405 freeway, Beatriz said.
Just months ago, he had successfully crossed that same freeway, the first time a GPS-collared mountain lion had done so over the course of the NPS’s 17-year study of mountain lions in and around the Santa Monica Mountains, Beatriz said.

90-year-old woman declined chemo, started to travel with her dog instead

90-year-old woman declined chemo, started to travel with her dog instead

Despite being 90 years old and receiving a life-threatening diagnosis, the beautiful Miss Norma was still full of life. Just days after her husband’s passing, she received a hard diagnose, too. However, Norma decided she doesn’t want to see the inside of any more hospitals, but to see the world, instead.

And so she did. The 90-year-old woman decided to hit the road with her son, daughter-in-law, and their Poodle, Ringo, in their RV.” I’m having the time of my life! I’m done with doctors,” she said.

The woman’s positivity; her energetic spirit and enthusiasm have surprised even her doctor. The Facebook page, Driving Miss Norma, recounts a conversation between them:

We explained to the well-meaning doctor and his student that we live in an RV and that we will be taking her wherever she wants to go. He didn’t hesitate to say, “RIGHT ON!” We asked if he thought us irresponsible for this approach. His reply was telling.

“As doctors,” he said, “we see what treatment looks like everyday. ICU, nursing homes, awful side effects and honestly, there is no guarantee she will survive the initial surgery to remove the mass. You are doing exactly what I would want to do in this situation. Have a fantastic trip!”

And now with Ringo as the co-pilot, son Tim and his wife Ramie, Norma is having the time of her life. So far, the adventurous team traveled thousands of miles and they have no intentions of stopping anytime soon.

“We have no idea where or when it will end. We are living in the present moment,” Ramie said. Let the good times rolls, Norma!

 

 

 

Climate crisis needs radical food changes

Climate crisis needs radical food changes

19 Jul 2019
Sheep
The entire food system needs to change, researchers say. Image: By nima hatami on Unsplash

To feed 9 billion people by 2050, and keep planet Earth from overheating, will mean massive and radical food changes – and not just in the way food is grown.

To contain global temperatures to no more than 2 °C above the average for most of human history will require humanity to change its diet, contain its appetite and reform the entire system of food production and distribution.

This is the verdict of the latest study of the challenge set in Paris in 2015, when 195 nations promised to limit global warming – driven by profligate use of fossil fuels and by the conversion of forest, grassland and wetlands into commercial use – to “well below” 2 °C by 2100.

Researchers report in the journal Sustainability that they looked at 160 studies and analyses of global agriculture and food systems and most closely at the world’s smallholders and markets that sustain as many as 2.5 billion people, mostly in the developing world.

Farming’s massive impact

Small farmers account for about a third of global agriculture’s greenhouse gas emissions, but these include also many of the people most vulnerable to the coming climate crisis, which is likely to put harvests at hazard on a global scale.

Agriculture, together with forestry and changes in land use, accounts for a quarter of all the carbon dioxide, methane and oxides of nitrogen that fuel global warming.

Just on its own, the action of growing grain, fruit and vegetables or feeding grazing animals accounts for no more than 12% of global warming, but a third of all the food that leaves the farm gate is wasted before it arrives on the supper table.

This is enough to provide 8% of the world’s emissions, and if just one fourth of the waste could be saved, that would be enough to feed 870 million people for a year.

Agronomists, crop researchers, climate scientists and ministry planners know of many steps that can be taken to reduce the greenhouse impact of agriculture: even under the most hopeful forecasts, these are likely to be deployed slowly.

The researchers see reductions in food loss as a “big opportunity” that will benefit farmers and consumers as well as reduce emissions. A more challenging problem is to change global appetites: the meat and dairy business accounts for about 18% of all human-triggered emissions, counting the clearance of forests and the impact of changes in the way land is used to feed the demand for meat, milk, butter and cheese.

A shift to plant-based diets would save on land and water and deliver more and healthier meals and permit more forest restoration.

“If you think about the two degree increase, efforts need to go beyond the agriculture sector,” said Anna Maria Loboguerrero, of the climate change, agriculture and food security programme of CGIAR, once known as the Consultative Group for International Agricultural Research, who led the study.

Drastic cuts needed

“This means reducing emissions by stopping deforestation, decreasing food loss and waste, reducing supply chain emissions and rethinking human diets, if we really want to get on track to that target.”

The researchers acknowledge that what they propose will constrain farm choices and increase costs. But a second study reports once again that the health benefits of immediate, dramatic cuts in carbon dioxide emissions will save lives, improve human health, and offset the immediate costs of containing planetary heating and adapting to the climate crisis.

“The global health benefits from climate policy could reach trillions of dollars annually, but will importantly depend on the air quality policies that nations adopt independently of climate change,” they write in the journal Nature Communications.

And Mark Budolfson of the University of Vermont, one of the authors, said: “We show the climate conversation doesn’t need to be about the current generation investing in the further future. By making smart investments in climate action, we can save lives now through improved air quality and health.”

 

Hunting responsible for mammal declines in half of intact tropical forests

https://phys.org/news/2019-05-responsible-mammal-declines-intact-tropical.html

Hunting responsible for mammal declines in half of intact tropical forests
The authors assert that, ‘Retaining the integrity of intact tropical forests will not be possible if global and national environmental strategies do not address ongoing hunting practices.’ Credit: Ruth Archer from Pixabay

Defaunation—the loss of species or decline of animal populations—is reaching even the most remote and pristine tropical forests. Within the tropics, only 20% of the remaining area is considered intact, where no logging or deforestation has been detected by remote sensing. However, a new study publishing May 14 in the open-access journal PLOS Biology, led by Ana Benítez-López from Radboud University, the Netherlands, predicts that even under the seemingly undisturbed canopy, hunting is reducing populations of large mammals by 40% on average, largely due to increased human accessibility to these remote areas.

Overhunting, as opposed to deforestation, is undetectable by  techniques, and to date, there were vast understudied areas in the tropics where hunting impacts on mammal communities were unknown. In this study, the authors have projected for the first time the spatial patterns of hunting-induced mammal defaunation in the tropics and have identified areas where hunting impacts on mammal communities are expected to be high.

Predicted hotspots of hunting-induced defaunation are located in West and Central Africa, particularly Cameroon, and in Central America, NW South America and areas in SE Asia (Thailand, Malaysia and SW China). Predictions were based on a newly developed hunting regression model, based upon socio-economic drivers, such as human population density and hunters’ access points, and species traits, such as body size. The model relies on more than 3,200 abundance data estimates from the last 40 years and included more than 160 studies and hundreds of authors studying approximately 300 mammal species across the tropics.

These defaunation maps are expected to become an important input for large-scale biodiversity assessments, which have routinely ignored hunting impacts due to data paucity, and may inform species extinction risk assessments, conservation planning and progress evaluations to achieve global biodiversity targets.