Skip to content
Surprising Science

As Earth Undergoes 6th Mass Extinction, Are Humans ‘Walking Dead?’

Lemurs, humans, sea birds — they’re all at risk. But we can change our fates if we choose to acknowledge what’s happening.

Scientists say we’re entering into another period of the planet’s sixth mass extinction event and humans are on the “at risk” list. The problem here is the world’s wealthiest nations, the ones that could do the most good, fail to see climate change as the major threat that it is, and why would they? 

“There are examples of species all over the world that are essentially the walking dead,” said Stanford University professor Paul Ehrlich to the BBC. It should be noted that humans are not excluded from this list of candidates. 

We don’t see the crisis of human displacement, unless we’re looking for it in the news.

“In many developed countries we have confidence in our adaptive capacity. We think we can adapt and cope, and in many ways we can do so more than developing economies,” Dr. Debbie Hopkins, a social scientist at the University of Otago, explained in an interview with The Guardian.

We don’t see the crisis of human displacement, unless we’re looking for it in the news. The world’s greatest minds have moved the Doomsday Clock to three minutes to midnight — the closest its been since the Cold War in 1984 — and we’re seeing California slowly sink into the Earth. Ecosystems are changing by way of seabirds dyingbee populations being mysteriously decimated, and more than 400 species disappearing since 1900 — a loss that typically happens over 10,000 years. The warning signs are there and they can only get worse.

[S]cientists say we can avoid disaster “through intensified conservation effects,” but that “window of opportunity is rapidly closing.”

Mass extinction events should not be taken lightly (for obvious reasons). These events threaten the balance of our planet, throwing entire ecosystems out of whack. Their origin stories usually center on a catastrophic moment, which caused physical changes in the environment to occur faster than animals were able to adapt. So, pending an asteroid crashing into us or some other disruptive event taking place, the main cause of this sixth mass extinction event will be brought to you by humans through habitat destruction, pollution, and climate change, the last of which has been keeping Bill Nye up at night:

In the meantime, the world will watch the face of the planet change. But scientists say we can avoid disaster “through intensified conservation effects,” but that “window of opportunity is rapidly closing.”

The solutions are there, like buying up coal to keep it in the ground. This alone would reduce habitat destruction as well as cut carbon emissions down in a dramatic way. It’s just up to world leaders to make these changes happen.

Natalie has been writing professionally for about 6 years. After graduating from Ithaca College with a degree in Feature Writing, she snagged a job at where she had the opportunity to review all the latest consumer gadgets. Since then she has become a writer for hire, freelancing for various websites. In her spare time, you may find her riding her motorcycle, reading YA novels, hiking, or playing video games. Follow her on Twitter: @nat_schumaker

Photo MIDDLETOWN, CA – SEPTEMBER 15: A sawyer climbs a hillside while cutting down trees that burned in the Valley Fire on September 15, 2015 in Middletown, California. The 104-square-mile fire destroyed 585 homes and hundreds of other structures. (Photo by David McNew/Getty Images)