The epigram on my Facebook page is, coincidentally enough, Mit der Dummhelt kämpfen Götter selbst vergebens. “Against stupidity, the Gods themselves battle in vain.
Which naturally brings me, in a roundabout way, to the rise of the “extinction deniers.”
Yes, believe it or not — and you could be forgiven for thinking “not” — extinction deniers, much like climate deniers, are a thing.
They’re the quasi-experts who point to the relatively low low number of confirmed extinctions to insist that there’s no such thing as an extinction crisis. The sixth mass extinction, is a figment of the doomsayers’ imagination, they argue, no more real than snow in July or flying Ryanair in comfort. They do stop short of calling it a Chinese hoax, though. Thank the Gods themselves for small mercies.
Never mind that wildlife populations have more than halved since 1970 — verifiable fact, backed up by empirical evidence — even as the human population has doubled. Only five times earlier in our planet’s history have so many species — and so much biodiversity — been lost in such a short period of time.
The last mass extinction was when the dinosaurs were wiped out. This is why more than a few anthropologists and palaeontologists have named the human age the Anthropocene epoch, after human beings.
The official geological name given to the last 11,700 years of Earth’s history is the Holocene — the time since the end of the last major ice age — which is why the sixth mass extinction is often referred to in official scientific circles as “the Holocene extinction.
Don’t tell the extinction deniers, though. The present mass extinction is a figment of snowflakes’ imagination, remember. It’s not happening. It’s Fake News.
The right-wing blogosphere and oh-so-legitimate news sites like Breitbart know the truth, as posited by climate deniers Patrick Moore and Marc Morano, among others: The recent United Nations IPBES (Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services) report that warned that the world faces a possible million extinctions in the coming decades due to human activity proves that “the two biggest human threats to wildlife in the last century have been a) Communists and b) environmentalists.”
Oh, and wind power kills birds. Unlike, you know, electric power lines.
Extinction deniers point, too, to the relatively low number of extinctions recorded by the official IUCN Red List over the past 40 years — on average, just two per year.
Never mind that species don’t go extinct very quickly, or that the IUCN Red List is reliably cautious in its findings: Scientific American science writer John R. Platt noted in The Revelator just this past month that of the 23 confirmed mussel extinctions in the American Southwest, the IUCN still lists seven species as “critically endangered,” not extinct, and another four don’t appear on the Red List at all.
Never mind Mit der Dummhelt, et al. Remember the famous line from King Lear: “’Tis the time’s plague when madmen lead the blind.”
Shakespeare may have been a 17th century kind-of-dude, but that’s as good a description of 21st-century Fake News as any.