It’s not a secret that deforestation, climate change, and habitat degradation is rapidly endangering plant and animal species around the world. So much so, that scientists have long warned of a sixth extinction. In 2014, a report from scientists at University of California, Berkeley explained that we are currently on the brink of facing the next great extinction on Earth — an episode of mass extinction where 75 percent of the species on the planet vanish within a short (geologically speaking) period of time.

Nearly three years later, scientists are trying to warn the public that this is serious and only getting worse. A new study was recently published in the peer-reviewed journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences and it doesn’t mince words.

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The scientific papers call the massive loss of wildlife a “biological annihilation” that represents a “frightening assault on the foundations of human civilization,” The Guardian reports

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The paper analyzed both common and rare species and found billions of regional or local populations have been lost, including billions of populations of mammals, birds, reptiles, and amphibians have been lost all over the planet. According to the scientists, nearly half of the 177 mammal species surveyed lost more than 80 percent of their distribution between 1900 and 2015.

Biodiversity loss due to climate change, habitat loss, pollution, and overfishing, tops the list as the main culprits of the impending extinction, all causes initiated by human industry. What’s more, every year, we produce 300 million tons of plastic, around 8.8 million tons of which end up in the oceans. Plastic waste does not biodegrade and it threatens the lives of countless marine animals. Because of plastic ingestion and entanglement, animals, especially marine mammals, die every day – currently, around 700 species are facing extinction because of this very real threat.

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If that wasn’t bad enough, because of the agriculture industry, 2,000 trees are chopped down in the Amazon rainforest every 60 seconds to make room for expansion. Additionally, 1,600 of those trees are chopped down every minute just to make room for cattle to graze and to grow livestock feed. If these rates of deforestation continue, there likely won’t be any rainforests left in the next 100 years. With the animal agriculture industry being responsible for more greenhouse gas emissions than the entire transportation sector combined, we need to act now to save the planet. And fast.

The scientists say that action could halt the decline but warn that it doesn’t look good. “The time to act is very short. It will, sadly, take a long time to humanely begin the population shrinkage required if civilization is to long survive, but much could be done on the consumption front and with ‘band-aids’ – wildlife reserves, diversity protection laws – in the meantime,” said Professor Paul Ehrlich of Stanford University.

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What You Can Do

While this news certainly seems bleak, there are actions you can take today to help fight the imminent sixth extinction, starting with your dinner plate. You can start eating for the planet by doing nothing more than choosing a delicious plant-based meal over one laden with animal products. If you look at it from a personal perspective, you can cut your own carbon footprint in half just by leaving meat off your plate for one year. (Plus save a lot of water, redirect grain for people to eat, and help protect endangered species…)

To learn how to limit your use of plastic, check out One Green Planet’s #CrushPlastic campaign. Switching to a reusable straw will help keep 584 pieces of plastic out of our oceans. When we know how our everyday actions and choices impact others, we are given the power to make better choices. So remember, the choice is yours!

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For information and advice on how you can play your part in the fight to end species extinction, check out some of the articles below.

Lead image source: Marwell Wildlife/Flickr

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