So far, the Earth has faced five mass extinctions during its long lifespan that covers almost five billion years. What many people don’t always seem to realise, is that we are currently in the middle of the sixth one. The biggest difference if you compare the current wave of mass extinction to the previous ones is the cause: earlier mass extinctions were literally mass extinctions, caused by climatological changes or other natural phenomena. They were part of the eternal cycle of life, at least if you take the geological time scale into account. What we are witnessing today is not a mass extinction triggered by natural factors, but rather a lurking, lingering form of mass genocide, the victims not being specific groups of humans, but animals, plants and vital ecosystems instead. And the pace in which this mass genocide is being executed is – to put it mildly – alarming. At the moment the total human demand on the planet’s natural resources exceeds the Earth’s capacity by about 25 percent, a number that is likely to grow considering the rapid emergence of new economic superpowers like China, India or Brazil. The rate at which humans have multiplied and congregated into vast urban sprawls makes such demands on the delicately balanced environment that in many places it is cracking under the ever tightening strains of material progress and overpopulation. The Atlas of Endangered Species is an interesting book that tries to tackle this problem by presenting the numbers and facts about the man-made disruption of the natural order on a global scale. The grim truth: if we don’t change our habits an re-evaluate our priorities up to twenty percent of all species may be extinct by the year 2030. The book examines different ecosystems, the major threats to their inhabitants and the steps that are currently being taken to protect our natural heritage on a global and regional scale. The Atlas of Endangered Species highlights the importance of the oceans, tropical and temperate forests, grasslands and wetlands, both for mankind and the Earth as a whole. The information is vividly presented through accessible texts, numerous full colour maps and interesting, if sometimes confronting graphics. The Atlas of Endangered Species is a must-read for anyone who wants to make a serious contribution to the (scientific) discourse about conservation on a global scale. Especially politicians and policymakers all over the world should take the information that is bundled in this book to heart an rapidly readjust their priorities. Because the financial crisis is merely a storm in a small glass of water compared to the seeds of destruction a full-scale ecological collapse would eventually sow.
Ricard Mackay, The Atlas of Endangered Species, Brighton 2009. ISBN: 978-1-84407-628-4