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Extinctions Faster than at Dinosaur Time

Veteran broadcaster David Attenborough says human population is pushing plants and animals into extinction faster than at any point in the history of the planet.

Scientists refer to what’s happening on our planet as the Sixth Great Extinction. But in terms of the rate at which it’s unfolding, you could call it the first.

“The problem about these changes is that they are happening at an extremely fast rate, and probably much faster than at any other time,” David Attenborough said at the London Wetland Center, a wildlife preserve. He was commenting on a report by the United Nations saying that that governments have failed to meet a 2010 target to halt a slide in the numbers of wildlife species, or biodiversity. (In fact, the situation has gotten much worse through the decade.)

The noted British broadcaster said that the only “competitor” for the rate of destruction now was the extinction of the dinosaurs. While it’s generally thought that the end of the dinosaurs, approximately 65 million years ago, was due to a small asteroid banging into the planet, the extinction took thousands of years – in some cases, millions – to unfold.

The 84-year-old naturalist lays the blame on a rising world population, projected to reach 9 billion by 2050 from 6.8 billion now. “I am quite certain that things will not be as good in 50 years as they are now,” he said.

It’s hardly the first time Attenborough has spoken out about what we’re doing to the planet. In 2006, while filming his series Life in Cold Blood, he commented:

“Climate change is happening, and that’s been in no doubt for a long time. I also know that human beings worldwide are contributing to climate change. I also know that if it goes on the way it is, we are in for some very bad times. We ought now to have a worldwide change in moral attitudes that you don’t waste energy, because energy is produced at a cost, and to waste it is sinful.”