Species Extinction is Nothing New

Dodo, based on Roelant Savery's 1626 painting ...

Dodo, based on Roelant Savery’s 1626 painting of a stuffed specimen– note the two same-side feet. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Letter to the Editor

As the global warming bubble deflates, another scare is being inflated – species extinction. Naturally the professional alarmists present this as a brand new threat, caused by man’s industry.

However, species extinction, like climate change, is the way of the world.

It was not carbon dioxide that entombed millions of mammoths and other animals in mucky ice from Iceland to Alaska. It was not steam engines that wiped out the dinosaurs and 75% of other species who had dominated the Earth for 180 million years. There were no humans to blame for the Great Permian Extinction when over 90% of all life on Earth was destroyed – animals, plants, trees, fish, plankton even algae disappeared suddenly.

Sadly, history shows that it is the destiny of most species to be destroyed by periodic natural calamities or competition from other species. Earth’s history is a moving picture, not a still life. No species has an assured place on Earth. Some species can adapt and survive – those unable to adapt are removed from the gene pool.

Earth’s periodic species extinctions are usually associated with widespread glaciation, volcanism, earth movements and solar disruptions. Most geological eras have closed with such calamitous events. Random and more localised species extinctions are caused by rogue comets. But global warming and abundant carbon dioxide have never featured as causes of mass extinctions.

Because of Earth’s long turbulent history, most species surviving today are not “fragile”. Every one of them, including humans, is descended from a long line of survivors going back to the beginnings of life on Earth.

Man has thrived because of his adaptability, resourcefulness and more recently, his use of science and technology. We cannot now return to a cave-man existence. Without the freedom to explore, develop and utilise our resources, most humans would not survive.

Species extinction events are not new, are not caused by burning carbon fuels, and will probably occur again. We will need all of our freedom, ingenuity and technology to survive.

Let us not hasten our own species extinction by starving ourselves of food and energy with foolish demonization of carbon, the building block of all life forms.

Viv Forbes,

Rosewood Qld Australia

forbes@carbon-sense.com

I am happy for my email address to be published.

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Alan Clark

If we want to stave-off species extinction, we need to shut-down windmills because they are slaughtering thousands of birds daily.

Duncan B (UK)

Quite so. Thimbles, peas, moving targets and goalposts.
Heads up Folks!

SasjaL

Not to forget, more “new’ species are found every year compared to the number of extinct ones.
(Greenpeace, let go of the Great Panda …)

pat

meanwhile, the British summer is not working out too well:
4 June: UK Daily Mail: Freezing June! It’ll rain all week, feel chilly and we might even see snow on Britain’s highest peaks
Up to an inch of rain fell across large parts of the country yesterday
Unsettled weather expected to continue until next weekend
Highest temperatures during the day forecast to drop to the mid-teens
http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2154340/Freezing-June-Itll-rain-week-snow.html

Garry Stotel

Stupidity and corruption will be our downfall. Ignorance and arrogance also combine to a lethal brew.

The struggle for species to survive is the very driver of the process known as evolution. There are many who have a pathological fear of the concept that anything should fail rather than succeed, so we must bail out companies, and in just that manner we must bail out failing species. But to do so requires that we take away the force which drives change and improvement over time. Species and companies stagnate, allowed to repeat mistakes that would ordinarily threaten them with extinction. Out of compassion we leave the environment and the economy filled with feeble, dependent inhabitants that cannot survive without us, whereas in nature every failure is replaced something more robust to the challenge those that failed could not overcome.

Henry Clark

A large part of the letter of Viv Forbes is quite correct. With that said, though, the fact that mass species extinctions have occurred naturally is not really an argument against wanting to prevent them. At least, it is not unless one follows the fallacy of some environmentalists (incorrectly believing anything natural is good) to an ultimate conclusion. For instance, naturally all life on Earth would end within a billion years or so due to increase in the sun’s output, but, if mankind’s intellectual descendants exist then, I would hope they would have disregarded what is natural and would have artificially spread life into space.
There are only moderate number of thousands of vertebrate species: mammals, fish, lizards, birds, etc. And only a fraction of those are endangered. The widely hyped media figures of millions of species come from counting all sorts of invertebrates, mainly bugs. Under a properly managed program, few if any endangered species would cost more than a few million dollars each at most to, if necessary, capture some individuals and maintain a breedable population of them, as well as to preserve samples for future cloning or other restoration if needed as a backup. So preventing species extinction is not hard in financial terms, not taking even 1/1000th of GDP, nor does it require massive restructuring of civilization as some environmentalists imply.
Some would object about ecosystems, but actually those are best preserved through encouraging and advancing high-yield mechanized agriculture; for instance, if mankind instead went back to more primitive organic farming, with lower yields, we would not able to spare as much land for nature as we do now.
A good page:
http://www-formal.stanford.edu/jmc/progress/
and, most specifically:
http://www-formal.stanford.edu/jmc/nature/nature.html

Obviously the Dodo’s extinction is based on its failure to reproduce, due to being a lousy dancer.

wheresmyak47NOitsnotathreatyouparanoidmoron

[snip]

New species are being ‘discovered’ at a much faster rate than that at which they are being lost, but as invariably only a few specimens are found they go straight onto the ‘critically endangered’ list. Thus the alarmists can truthfully say that ‘ever more species are now indeed ‘critically endangered’.
There is also the problem of dubious sub-species. If Joe Bloggs ‘discovers’ a new toad he may well be tempted to insist that it is Bufo Bufo Bloggsii.
When specimens cannot be found in that location some years later we can always put that one down to ‘global warming’ !
WWF’s alarmism over ‘endangered’ Tigers is as suspect as the furore over the ‘disappearing’ Polar Bear, but that’s a much longer story.

timg56

I’ve observed a propensity on the part of greens and environmentalists to want to “freeze” what they see as the “natural” environment, indicating a complete lack of understanding of ecology.

Richdo

“We will need all of our freedom, ingenuity and technology to survive.”
Yes, and of these freedom is the most important. Ingenuity and technology, like capitalism, are just some of the positive emergent characteristics of individual freedom.

Kasuha

Mass human-induced species extinction threat is not new. It’s just been temporarily taken over by more sound buzzwords such as global warming but it’s been there all the time and it was even on the global warming background (coral bleaching, concerns about species being unable to adapt to CAGW, …).
And there is actually a lot to talk about, because there is no doubt humans are creating evolutionary pressure on their environment. Any domestic animals wouldn’t exist without human influence, but many ‘unwanted’ ones wouldn’t exist as well (such as house mouse or bugs specialized at living with humans).
There’s whole spectrum of opinions on how much is the right amount, starting with ‘anything is okay’ and ending with ‘there should be no influence at all’. The task for the future is not to deny any problems about it – it is about finding the right position in between these two.

Olen

Everything makes sense except the evolution or species. Evolutionists are still looking for the missing link which they have claimed several times only to find it is not.
The study of species deserves no more of a pass on speculation and predictions than any other area of science.

John Game

Actually, lets have some accuracy about the facts here, please. Human beings ARE causing and HAVE caused major species extinctions, but it isn’t through climate change. Its through introduction of new invasive organisms to places where they did not evolve and thus the native biota have no resistance to them, its through direction predation, and its though habitat destruction, among other things. I am climate change sceptic, but I also believe passionately in species preservation, and to say that we have not/ are not contributing to extinctions is just factually not correct. The Great Auk and the Dodo and The Passenger Pigeon all went extinct simply because human beings hunted them to extinction – none of them were in trouble before they became hunted, and there are many more examples. Some bird species on Australia’s Lord Howe Island were exterminated by rats that escaped from a ship in the early twentieth century. The Philip Island Glory Pea flower (near Australia’s Norfolk Isalnd) was exterminated by rabbits that we brought there. Many Hawaiian bird species have been exterminated by Avian Malaria and Avian Pox that were brought there by humans and/or are spread by mosquitoes that were brought there by humans – the list goes on and on. Please lets all work hard to protect those species that are seriously endangered, even while pointing out that the Polar Bear does not happen to be one of them.
– John Game.

eyesonu

JC says:
June 4, 2012 at 3:51 pm
Obviously the Dodo’s extinction is based on its failure to reproduce, due to being a lousy dancer.
=========
Maybe from a lack of mercury rising. 😉

Billy Liar

timg56 says:
June 4, 2012 at 4:03 pm
I wholeheartedly agree! I find it absolutely preposterous that conservationists, environmentalists and greens in general want to preserve the status quo. It ain’t gonna happen; might as well stop trying. If they’d been around 70 million years ago we’d now be trying to keep dinosaurs out of our gardens.

eyesonu

Andrew says:
June 4, 2012 at 3:37 pm
====
Slightly OT response, but maybe industry is failing partly because the HR (Human Relations dept) now controls the composition of employees and mgmt. of any particular industry. HR mgrs. are the product of the new academia.. Product of academics promoting academia. US industry is going the way of the Dodo bird. It may be analogized as a mutation of sorts, not natural selection. It may be all over but for the final collapse in the US and EU as well. Sad.

Mark F

An earlier article by Mr. Eschenbach pointed out that the official “Red List” showed no real anthropogenic extinctions, save for predation. I suspect that a great deal of alarm is communicated by those monitoring species at the edge of their natural habitat, with said alarm being used to stop or stall any human activity. Or worse, chase humans from their lands. “Ooooh, look, I just found a sharp-tailed snake! No more building / logging / gardening or other activity should be allowed within 50 miles!” Meanwhile, said snakes are thriving 100 miles to the South, just like always.

DesertYote

If its a rare species with a highly restricted habitat then it is not very important biological. If it is not important, then its loss has little if any impact. Most likely it is on its way out anyways. So no one should really care if it goes extinct. That this is not the common opinion. just goes to show how successful the Socialist have been in brainwashing everyone for the last 100+ years.

DesertYote

BTW, I am sure I don’t really need to point this out, but the definition of a species only known from the fossil record, is very different from the definition of extant species, so any blabbering about the rate of extinction increasing is just a load of coprolite!

DesertYote

timg56
June 4, 2012 at 4:03 pm
🙂 🙂 🙂
It its range is shrinking, it it endangered and its mans fault.
If its range is expanding, it is a weedy species, and its mans fault. *
If its range is moving, it is being driven out of its homeland by climate change, and its mans fault.
If its range is stable, it is threatened, and its mans fault.
* In a surreal moment, I heard someone claim in all seriousness, that mankind was FORCING coyotes to greatly expand their range and population!!!

DesertYote

Mark F
June 4, 2012 at 5:17 pm
###
Look at endangerment criteria. Most organisms are list just because of the size and fragmentation of their natural range. In other words, being threatened is natural.

George E. Smith;

Well Mother Nature’s law of survival of the fittest, has worked wonderfully for around 4.5 billion years or so. In his(er) view, wasting precious resources on the unfit, simply drives the whole system in the direction of non-survival. So perhaps humans are endangering the whole system by insisting on the continued survival of species clearly unfit to occupy the niche they currently inhabit.
The Giant Panda, and the Koala, are two (not so cuddlies) that are just too picky eaters for their own good. Humans are amongst the fittest, in that some of us are prepared to eat damn near anything. Californians struggle endlessly to try and prevent the extinction of trout and salmon in their local waters; yet virtually every species that California anglers fish for, is a non native species, clearly better at utilizing the California waters. Perhaps if Californians would get all their trash trout out of the rivers and lakes in New Zealand, it would be easier to catch a nice New Zealand eel, in those waters.
But humans risk their very own extinction; simply by being human.

Robert of Texas

Actually most of the so-called mass extinctions occurring “now” are just made up statistics – probably there is a computer model that proves its so.
I am for protecting natural environments, but you can’t halt all progress because it might impact 20 lizards in a desert. If something is really that rare its going to be extinct soon anyway.
Better to spend time, attention, and money on large preserves where lots of species have a shot at survival.
As for climate change, if the species can’t survive a 1 degree Celsius change in climate over 100 years it isn’t going to make it – period. Man has no say in the matter (unless we move them into a Zoo).

Gunga Din

OK. Someone’s got to say it. The Dodo is not extinct. It’s now a politician in Berkley. (or a climate scientist at Penn State, or a …..)

Brian H

The environment is way too complex and brutal for environmentalists to comprehend. They are thus in a permanent state of confusion and shock. Their recommendations and demands are thus literally insane. Ignore or sequester them.

Richard M

Survival of the fittest. Isn’t that what it’s all about? If man is making it more difficult for other species then man is pressuring them to adapt. In the long haul that should be good for that species. In fact, it should be good for all kinds of species. It just may not be that good for man.

John Game

Gunga Din, please learn how to spell Berkeley.

michael hart

The difference between conservation and preservation is as long as a piece of string.

DDP

Sadly some species are at risk due to ‘anthropogenic global warming’. Not from any change in climate, change in temperature, sea rise, CO2 rise or whatever argument is put forward in any given week. But from watermelons who think they can save a planet that doesn’t need saving and has never needed to be saved in it’s 4.5 billion year history. Policies so backward even Greenpeace think are ridiculous and damaging.
Orangutan numbers in Sumatra have been steadily declining for the past decade as a result of the booming palm oil industry. Which has not only led to palm oil cultivated land accounting for four times the Orangutan’s natural habitat, but hunting is widespread to cut the amount of crop lost as a result of animals scavenging due to their lost habitat.
Another feather in the watermelon’s cap of deniability.

Alan D McIntire

Henry Clark that most vertebrates are not near extinction. In fact, species follow a roughly Pareto distribution, where a few species are numerous and widespread, more are less numrous and less widespread, and most are limited in number and area- by definition they’re near extinction.
During the last ice age, much of the world was a desert. Thanks to the warming world, there has been an increase in the area able to support life, and an increase in species to fill the new habitats- and most of those new species spreading into warmer climates will be on the edge of extinction.

Edward Martin

Why all the fuss? Darwin tells us new species are popping up right and left.

Gunga Din

John Game says:
June 4, 2012 at 6:23 pm
Gunga Din, please learn how to spell Berkeley.
====================================================
If I spent all my time learning how to spell I wouldn’t have any time left to comment here.

I noticed that a lot of people talk about the threat of “invasive species.”
Well that is also something that is often misconstrued. Here is the thing: If a species can not “Adapt” to another animal taking over a niche, they were not worthly to survive. That simple, its cold, its a hard truth, but its also life. Humans might have the ability to “keep the damage down” by hunting invasive species which helps limit the changes the invasive creature has on the local environment, but in the end the environment adapts and something will start preying on the now native species everytime. (or force the invasive species to become limited in some fashion.)
This is how life works, and if you look anywhere that humans adapted species to a new environment, over the course of say 50 years the local environment adapts and something does rise up to put checks and balances into place. That is how “survival of the fittest works.”
Does this seem cold? I hope so, because it really is. Its simply this: A realistic way of looking at life and the environment. That being said, there are ways to ensure the most bio-diversity after an invasive species is introduced. If say rats had been hunted and had their numbers kept down in New Zealand and the animals there had been given a fair chance to adapt, the biodiversity there today might have been better.
But that is what life is about, we learn from our mistakes and strive to do the best we can to make life better. We can not keep smacking ourselves and force our species to bow down to other species, because like it or not we are part of the eco-system as well. Taking us out could cause just as much damage to certain animals (say perhaps the animals and plants we eat…) and is that truly a good thing? Picking winners and losers without regard to the worth of either is a sure emotional way to work yourself up to saying that “viruses that harm mankind should not be driven to extinction.”
IF you want to be emotional to that level, why don’t you talk to people inflicted with certain diseases and ask them how they feel about the disease or virus or whatever it is? Only cold hard science and the truth will allow us to realize that we have a responsibility to ourselves as a species FIRST and then to the environment after we safeguard our own existance.
There there is this comment by George E. Smith, which is rather ironic when you think about it:
But humans risk their very own extinction; simply by being human.
I would tend to argue that humans risk their own extinction by not thinking things through rationally like I said and by being overly emotional (or perhaps being too human perhaps). This is the problem, and perhaps the ironic part of it is that yes, we will risk our own extinction because some of us have more emotions…and yes this will drag us down to a lower level and might lead to our own extinction if we don’t use our brains properly and realize that our survival is more important then any other thing. If humans are too survive, we need to stop the entire process of safe-guarding anything without regard to how it effects the environment…..and especially playing favorites with certain animals , plants and yes especially viruses.

Titus

It’s these types of discussions that make me question whether we really understand our origins at the most basic level. Creation and evolution are both beliefs. In my mind it’s so much easier to accept we just do not have a clue. Applying all of our abilities, with very limited sensors, to understand our existence seems so far out of reach to have any certainty whatsoever.
The only certainty is that we will end up the same way as every living thing has in the past. There’s confidence in that……..

leftinbrooklyn

I’m just hopefully awaiting the extinction of ‘Climatesaurus Scientificus.’

eyesonu

In another 50,000 years someone/something will find a fossil of a Dodo bird and discuss the atmospheric composition as being thick enough for it to fly. It probably evolved into a penguin due to the ice age of the time that the earth was then coming out of. Will these creatures look like a penguin?

Streetcred

timg56 says [ June 4, 2012 at 4:03 pm ]
I’ve observed a propensity on the part of greens and environmentalists to want to “freeze” what they see as the “natural” environment [ … ]
—————————————————
I would just be satisfied with freezing those greens’ brains … it wouldn’t take up much space.

P Wilson

species extinction is part of evolution. The cheetah for example performs sex rarely, for 2 days of the year. Lions kill them… They are makiong themselves extinct like Panda bears which are extremely reluctant to have intercourse.
Besides, new species are being evolving and things are being discovered continously. in 2009, nearly 20,000 new species were discoveered, 41 of them mammals

pat says:
June 4, 2012 at 3:34 pm
meanwhile, the British summer is not working out too well:
4 June: UK Daily Mail: Freezing June! It’ll rain all week, feel chilly and we might even see snow on Britain’s highest peaks…

And the summer Olympics are being held where?

SocialBlunder

If a species is narrowly adapted and man removes that niche, does that mean the species deserved to die (as so many have commented), or that man has ignorantly removed part of the richness of his surroundings? The tone of these comments indicate that many would prefer to be surrounded by tough, resilient species: rats, cockroaches, coyotes, ants and rabbits. That world would be a pale imitation of the world we live in today – it would be like always eating fast food.

P Wilson

re George E Smith’s comment.
Darwin thought that the human race would eventually be doomed because of its lack of domestication. Even the wildest animals are adapted to their environment. ie, domesticated. Humans are dissatisfied and wish to escape, evade, change, and “progress” materially. In other words we are never happy with our environment.
Again, the species that survive are the most adaptable, not the most adapted.

AnonyMoose

Some Darwin guy wrote a book called “On the Origin of Species”, which was somewhat popular. He pointed out a while ago in it that extinction is the natural process for creating species. Variation causes improved versions of critters, which then tend to replace the older forms because there often is close competition for the same living space and the improved ones (by definition) have an advantage in that competition. There is also competition with other critters, but competition with similar ones is quite a significant pressure within these relatives.

Steve P

‘Some really serious blow-back against environmentalists here because of the CAGW hoax. Let’s not throw out the baby with the bathwater, and remember, we are forced to make rules to keep people from pissing in the water, driving while drunk, and committing other destructive acts, like shooting every last Bison, or Passenger Pigeon. I wonder what ecological niche was vacated when the Passenger Pigeon was exterminated…maybe they ate ticks, who knows?

mr.artday

The Great Auk, the Passenger Pigeon, the Carolina Parakeet. They are all gone. Can anybody tell us how their loss caused any problems, anywhere.
So many species have come and gone that the error bar for the total number of extinct species is larger than the best estimate for the total number of extant species. leading to that old biologists joke: ‘To a first approximation, all species are extinct.’

Torgeir Hansson

I checked the list of species going extinct not long ago, and none were due to global warming/climate change/weirding/what have you. It was all about predation and habitat destruction. And there aren’t many that are threatened by that either.
But for instance in Northern California we have a problem with feral pigs—a hardy species to be sure. They cause expensive damage. They scavenge crops, cause erosion, and are generally great at producing all sorts of expensive damage.
Seems like a good idea to cull them hard, and to benefit from the lovely cutlets they yield.

Gail Combs

Andrew says:
June 4, 2012 at 3:37 pm
The struggle for species to survive is the very driver of the process known as evolution. There are many who have a pathological fear of the concept that anything should fail rather than succeed, so we must bail out companies, and in just that manner we must bail out failing species….
_________________________________
That is one of the worse parts of factory farming and PETA.
For robust farm animals you should not be trying to “save” every last animal with extensive vet care as the bleeding hearts are trying to mandate via “Animal Welfare” laws. Also factory farming leading to a narrow genetic make-up is also a danger.

….Purdue University animal sciences professor Bill Muir was part of an international research team that analyzed the genetic lines of commercial chickens used to produce meat and eggs around the world. Researchers found that commercial birds are missing more than half of the genetic diversity native to the species, possibly leaving them vulnerable to new diseases and raising questions about their long-term sustainability….
He said it’s also important to preserve non-commercial breeds and wild birds for the purpose of safeguarding genetic diversity and that interbreeding additional species with commercial lines might help protect the industry…..
“We suggest interbreeding some experimental commercial poultry lines with native or standard breeds as a backup plan, or ace in the hole, to help the industry meet future challenges, as traits such as disease resistance may be found among the rare alleles of other birds,” he said….
http://news.uns.purdue.edu/x/2008b/081103Muirdiversity.html

Do not forget Willis’s post: Where Are The Corpses?

ferdberple

Edward Martin says:
June 4, 2012 at 6:42 pm
Why all the fuss? Darwin tells us new species are popping up right and left.
P Wilson says:
June 4, 2012 at 7:43 pm
in 2009, nearly 20,000 new species were discoveered, 41 of them mammals
===========
20,000 new species a year. A few go extinct. This does not suggest any shortages on the horizon.

ferdberple

Smallpox, polio, malaria, TB. These are life forms that need to be saved from extinction.
If extinction is bad, then where is the justification to drive some species to extinction and not others? You cannot argue that smallpox eradication, or the eradication of any disease is good, if extinction itself is bad.
Eradication means extinction for the life form involved. Do we have the wisdom to say that smallpox itself is bad? While bad for the individual, perhaps it serves to strengthen the population, preventing human extinction. By eradicating disease, we may be causing our own extinction.
Isn’t this the logical extension of the argument to prevent extinction. We have already seen the success of the EPA ban on DDT to prevent mosquito eradication, allowing malaria to survive and prosper. Time we applied this logic to all pathogens.