My bookclub is reading THE SIXTH EXTINCTION- An Unnatural History by Elizabeth Kolbert. I just picked up the audio book and as I was listening today I realized how little I know about the natural world around me. I had no idea the world’s frogs–maybe even the frogs in the creek behind my house–have been wiped out by a fungus. I vaguely recall some talk a few years ago about “Save the Frogs.”
Apparently, I’m not the only one with a short attention span because when I Googled “Why are the frogs dying?” I could only find news reports from 2012. So, I added “2015″ to my search. I got this: England’s frogs are going belly up at an alarming rate. Read it and weep: British Frogs. As a cause, I’ll admit, frogs aren’t glamorous. They’re small and shy, and, apparently, not newsworthy.
Although there’s a good chance, according to the author, that the source of the fungus that’s killing frog populations globally was spread thanks to humans, at least, this time we’re not going out of our way to kill every last frog as we did with the Great Auks.
What’s an Auk, you say? Oh, wait, that was me. It’s possible I’ve heard the name, but no image came to mind. Certainly not this image.
According to Wikipedia, “The great auk (Pinguinus impennis) was a flightless bird of the alcid family that became extinct in the mid-19th century.” It was called a penguin, even though it’s not one. Go figure. But like the penguin, it was clumsy on land but graceful, fast and lethal to its prey in the water. Auks mated for life. A mated pair produced one egg and cared for it until the little auk hatched, then they raised it together.
No one knows how many of these birds existed, but if you listen to the Sixth Extinction you will visualize an island in the north Atlantic PACKED with tens of thousands, if not more. And what happened to these birds is a horror on par with how hunters slaughtered the buffalo, if not worse. These flightless birds were hunted for their meat, their oil, and their feathers. When it became apparent that the species was on the brink of extinction, laws were passed to protect them. Ironically, this made the remaining birds more collectable to the rich freaks who apparently needed one of everything–especially the last one. “A record of a bird in 1852 is considered by some to be the last sighting of the species.”
To make a long and very depressing story short, the author contends that we are on the brink of another extinction–our own. Many scientists agree, many others believe it’s not too late to save ourselves.
I attended a lecture a few weeks ago on this topic. The speaker, Dr. Anthony D. Barnosky, a professor at Berkeley, spoke succinctly and movingly about the signs pointing to our screwing ourselves out of a planet. He has a book out, too, if you’re interested: Dodging Extinction: Power, Food, Money, and the Future of Life on Earth.
The best part of Dr. Barnosky’s talk for me was his belief that we can turn this around–if we start right now. Here’s how:
Who’s with me?
Here’s a link to the book: THE SIXTH EXTINCTION.