Culture

Professor Extinction Speaks

Interview with Professor Ceballos - world leading scientist tracking the Sixth Mass Extinction Event

Jaguar

Professor Ceballos is a well-known and distinguished environmental scientist. He has published 550 scientific and outreach articles, and 45 books. His most recent is called - The Annihilation of Nature: Human Extinction of Birds and Mammals. The book shows us the face of Earth’s sixth great mass extinction, revealing that this century is a time of darkness for the world’s birds and mammals. In The Annihilation of Nature, three of today’s most distinguished conservationists tell the stories of the birds and mammals we have lost and those that are now on the road to extinction. These tragic tales, coupled with eighty-three color photographs from the world’s leading nature photographers, display the beauty and biodiversity that humans are squandering. 1. How do you feel about living through Earth's Sixth Mass Extinction Event? Quoting Charles Dickens "A Tale of Two Cities" :

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times,

it was the age of wisdom. it was the age of foolishness,

it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulit,

it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness,

it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair,

we had everything before us, we had nothing before us

If we have unconsciously driven the planet to such a terrible situation, we have a big chance of consciously making it right. 2. What proportion of the planet's biodiversity have humans destroyed so far? Five mass extinctions have taken place on Earth. These were caused by large-scale natural disasters like meteors or enormous chains of volcanic eruptions, wiping out between half and 96% of all living species. Today, a sixth mass extinction is underway, mainly caused by man-made changes to the environment including deforestation, poaching, overfishing and global-warming, and it's proving to be just as deadly. Surprisingly, the worst news is that this time it is happening faster. About 477 vertebrate species have been lost since 1900. If humans were not the primary source of these extinctions, there should've only been nine species going extinct during the same time period. 75% of the species we know today could be lost in just two generations' time. 3. How much more of nature can we lose before critical ecological functions that our civilisation depends upon start to fail? Scientists can't predict exactly how many species need to go extinct before the world collapses, that´s why people think nothing bad will come from species loss. The problem is that our environment is like a brick wall. It will hold if you pull individual bricks, but eventually it takes just one to make it suddenly fall apart. 4. Do you think complex life exists elsewhere in the universe? As written at the beginning of my book "The annihilation of Nature: Human extinction of Birds and Mammals": _" Elsewhere in our huge, cold, and little-comprehended universe, containing more stars than all the grains of sand on our planet, there may be life. But life might, as far as we know, be exclusive of Earth". _ We know more (as a whole) about the Moon and other planets, than we do about life on Earth, and we depend on the survival and wellness of the species inside it. 5. Are you optimistic about the future? I am optimistic, yes. Humans are perfectly capable of getting our act together understanding that the current extinction rate and other environmental problems threatens us. They are national security problems. But we need to act now!! There is no time to waste. CEBALLOSPROFESSOR GERARDO CEBALLOS BIO Professor Ceballos is a very well-known and distinguished environmental scientist in the world. That status is the result of (1) his pioneering and extraordinarily diverse ecological and conservation research, (2) his unparalleled efforts to bring ecological knowledge to bear on crucial societal issues, (3) his building of bridges between ecology and conservation in order to humane find paths to ecological sustainability, and (4) his untiring efforts to increase the ecological literacy of the general public. Professor Ceballos’ distinction is not based solely on his extraordinary early accomplishments. At the age of 57 he is doing path-breaking research, building cross-disciplinary collaborations, training students and post-docs, and tirelessly propagating his insights to policy-makers and the public. His scientific production is extremely remarkable, especially for a scientist from a developing country, where resources for conducting research are extremely limited. He has published 550 scientific and outreach articles, and 45 books. He is the ecologist and conservationist with more books published in Mexico and Latin America. And he is the ecologist in Mexico with more articles in the best scientific journals. He was elected as a foreign member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 2014, an honor shared by less than 15 scientists from Latin America. He works here.

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