Business Day - - The Bottom Line -

From the New York Times Mag­a­zine: The cur­rent world­wide loss of bio­di­ver­sity is pop­u­larly known as the sixth ex­tinc­tion: the sixth time in world his­tory that a large num­ber of species have dis­ap­peared in un­usu­ally rapid suc­ces­sion, caused this time not by as­ter­oids or ice ages but by hu­mans.

When we think about los­ing bio­di­ver­sity, we tend to think of the last north­ern white rhi­nos pro­tected by armed guards, of po­lar bears on dwin­dling ice floes

… But ex­tinc­tion is not the only tragedy through which we’re liv­ing. What about the species that still ex­ist, but as a shadow of what they once were?

In The Once and Fu­ture World, jour­nal­ist JB MacKinnon cites records from re­cent cen­turies that hint at what has only just been lost: “In the North At­lantic, a school of cod stalls a tall ship in mid-ocean; off Syd­ney, Aus­tralia, a ship’s cap­tain sails from noon un­til sun­set through pods of sperm whales as far as the eye can see ... Pa­cific pi­o­neers com­plain to the au­thor­i­ties that splash­ing salmon threaten to swamp their ca­noes.”

There were re­ports of lions in the south of France, wal­ruses at the mouth of the Thames, flocks of birds that took three days to fly over­head, as many as 100 blue whales in the South­ern Ocean for ev­ery one that’s there now.

“These are not sights from some an­cient age of fire and ice,” MacKinnon writes. “We are talk­ing about things seen by hu­man eyes, re­called in hu­man mem­ory.”

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