Horizon Social Media Analysis

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Internet users worried about species extinction

Concern and fear are the two most expressed emotions online when it comes to species extinction, echoing alarmist scientific forecasts according to which the sixth mass extinction of the Earth’s history is already underway.

Species extinction worries Internet users; at least this is what our data suggests. In more than 50% of documents analyzed concern is the predominant emotion, followed by fear in about 35% of the documents. Country by country figures mostly confirm this trend.

 

A quick look at the latest scientific publications on species extinction would seem to confirm the concern expressed online. A number of scientific reports are claiming that we have entered the sixth mass extinction of the Earth’s history, a phenomenon that happens when between 70 and 90% of living species disappear. The Earth has been through this five times already, the last time being 65 million years ago at the end of the Cretaceous-Paleogene period when dinosaurs disappeared after meteors hit the Earth.

 

Man-made extinction

But this time it seems that mankind is the cause, not a natural catastrophe. According to a series of papers published in the American magazine Science, human activity has caused the extinction of 25% of all living species over the last 500 years. An alarming figure, although only an average and despite the fact that species have not all suffered from human activity to the same extent.

 

Éric Vidal, director of research at the French Research and Development Institute (IRD), recently stated during a conference that “rapid human demographic growth has created impacts that can be clearly identified” like habitat fragmentation, the introduction of invasive species, over-exploitation of resources, pollution, bio-contamination and climate change. That such human factors have played a role in species extinction is clear; in what proportions remains less so.

Penguins are released into the sea after recovering from an oil slick in South Africa

According to Elizabeth Kolbert, a Pulitzer Prize winner for her book “The Sixth Extinction”, humankind will also eventually beaffected by this mass extinction. “Humans are not going to be here forever,” she explained in an interview with the website MotherJones. On the subject of COP21, she said to the Irish Times that “fear is a very good motivator.” “If people are afraid that their kids are not going to have a future, that might motivate them,” she continued. We just don’t know if our leaders feel the same way.

 

 

© Mathieu Belanger / Reuters / Mike Hutchings