What is the worst living thing on Earth? If you answered “centipedes,” you’re correct! But coming in a close second are humans, of course. We really are just the worst.
Exactly how wretched are we? A new study in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences reveals that though people represent just .01 percent o living things, we’re responsible for 83 percent of the loss of all wild animals, and half of all plants. Pretty bad. I retract what I said before—we are equally bad as centipedes.
This isn’t to say that humans aren’t responsible for a different type of animal proliferation. On the contrary, we’ve done an amazing job of increasing livestock populations to an explosive degree, with farmed poultry now comprising 70 percent of all birds on Earth. Sixty percent of all mammals are livestock; only four percent are wild animals. Humans, or Bipedal Destruction Machines, as I like to call them, represent 36 percent of all mammals, which is probably 34 percent too many.
All of this loss—or “transformation, if you prefer—has prompted scientists to declare that we’re at the dawn of a new geological era called the Anthropocene, to be measured in chicken bones since that’s pretty much our most prevalent resource. Here’s some more information from The Guardian, presented as a block-quote because it causes me too much pain to bother re-type:
The destruction of wild habitat for farming, logging and development has resulted in the start of what many scientists consider the sixth mass extinction of life to occur in the Earth’s four billion year history. About half the Earth’s animals are thought to have been lost in the last 50 years.
But comparison of the new estimates with those for the time before humans became farmers and the industrial revolution began reveal the full extent of the huge decline. Just one-sixth of wild mammals, from mice to elephants, remain, surprising even the scientists. In the oceans, three centuries of whaling has left just a fifth of marine mammals in the oceans.
What are we good for, anyway? Clearly, nothing.