Wednesday, April 05, 2006


[To listen to the full 19 min broadcast, complete with rare quotes by super-biologist E.O.Wilson, and other sound effects, click on the title “The Great Extinction” above.]

At least one in eight plants are threatened. Half of land animals, and most of large ocean species. may disappear during our childrens' lives. We are coming to the greatest mass extinction ever known, including historic meteor strikes. The very fabric of living creation that populates our planet, and our life experiences, is going to gone.

[Clip: E.O. Wilson - Biodiversity Half Gone]

Have your pen or keyboard ready. In a minute, I'm going to give the Net address for the Web's largest collection of information on mass extinction. There you can find hundreds of stark warnings about The Great Extinction.

Then, near the end of the broadcast, you'll get an important Web address to find really recent reports on the state of the world, by top scientists, in lectures to the Harvard Medical School.

[Clip: E.O. Wilson - HIPPO, the agents of mass extinction]

In 2004, Nature magazine reported from a scientific study that one quarter of animals and plants living on land could disappear forever. Millions of species may be extinct by 2050.

One report reads: "At a 2005 conference, renowned scientist Prof. Peter Raven, Director of the Missouri Botanical Garden, told delegates that without a change in current directions, as many as two-thirds of world species could be on route to extinction by the end of this century. He said nature will reach sustainability on its own terms unless humans change course."


"Scientists estimate that human activity has accelerated natural extinction rates by as many as 1,000 times the normal rate. Over the past 500 years, in fact, scientists have recorded about 250 species extinctions among mammals, birds, amphibians, reptiles, and conifers. Today, the world stands to lose three times that amount in perhaps the next 10 to 50 years.

According to a new scientific report by the Alliance for Zero Extinction (AZE), however, there is new hope for some of these most threatened populations – and still time to protect them. Conservation International (CI) and 52 other like-minded organizations that comprise the AZE conducted a global analysis to identify those Endangered (EN) and Critically Endangered (CR) species that exist in a single remaining population and are largely confined to a single location. The AZE has identified 595 sites as the last remaining refuges of 794 species. In its December 2005 report, the AZE sets forth a blueprint to immediately safeguard key habitats and possibly prevent an imminent wave of species extinctions."
- That report from Jennifer Shatwell of Conservation International.

OK, here is the Web address you need to track the loss of living creations:

Let's turn to a fantastic resource to educate yourself and others, about our developing crisis. In February, 2006, the Harvard Medical School organized a series of lectures on the environment, gathering pre-eminent speakers. It was all recorded on video. At the time of this report, most of the lecture series is still available to the public, as a streaming video. Here is the address for today's focus lecture, by the legendary biologist E.O. Wilson.
The address is a long one, but well worth the trouble. It is:

I'll repeat that again later.

Edward O. Wilson is renowned for his research into living systems, in many places of the world. He has journeyed to deep jungles and the distant edges of the earth, to record the wealth of species. Wilson's particular specialty is ants.

[CLIP: E.O. Wilson discovers Fire Ants...followed by CLIP: finding many species of ants in one tree.]

In addition to his research, Wilson is a long-time teacher at Harvard University, and - a much published author of books with a contagious sense of wonder and love for nature. He has won two Pulitzer Prizes, and many other awards.

One of my listeners, hearing a sense of despair, knowing human life is causing mass extinctions, sent me a book that brought her hope. It was called "The Future of Life," by one Edward O. Wilson, published in 2002. Essentially, he argues that humans, all of us, are born with an instinctual love for other life forms. We are not mental islands, but part of a vast network of living things that support, comfort, and inspire us. He calls that love for nature "Biophilia."

If our instinctive love for nature, our biophilia, can take a leading role, Wilson believes we can get through this difficult century, coming out with a livable planet. Here is one example of his optimism, this time about population.

[Clip: E.O. Wilson - Hope for Population.]

Wilson is one of the major proponents of a scheme to purchase the last great areas of biodiversity, to preserve an estimated 70 percent of the land species of Earth. For around 28 billion dollars, some protective institution could buy the biologically richest rainforests in the Amazon, the Congo, and Indonesia, and perhaps rare islands of species in places like Madagascar. To put the cost in perspective, the profits of American oil companies were 100 billion dollars in 2005. Just one quarter of that money could save creations that evolved over a billion years. Once they're gone, they're gone.

[Clip: Tom Paxton - Once They're Gone, They're Gone, from Tribute to Rachel Carson, by MUSE records, at]

But, like most of us, Wilson's optimism is darkened by doubts about the future of such rapacious reproducers, humans. He trusts that life will survive, with or without us. He finds life everywhere, always.

[Clip: Wilson - Life Everywhere, Always.]

And don't trust in some magic cure by genetic science, to make a new world. At their best and brightest, humans are not Gods, and can not make a new creation in the lab.

[Clip: Wilson - Man-Made Nature an Abomination]

Here is the address for watching E.O. Wilson's important lecture:

Or, you can download the full audio version from Radio Ecoshock, at

For more news and science, tune in to Radio Ecoshock, the world's only full-time, all environment radio station, at

Tom Paxton's song came from the Rachel Carson Tribute album, at Our closing music is by Earth Momma, the Grass Roots album, at

Maybe, just maybe, we don't have to say "goodbye" to the frogs, the colored birds, the rich medley of plant life, the loved animals of our childhood. It's up to you.

[Clip: Earth Momma singing "We Don't Have to Say Goodbye."]