Tracking the Extinctions and Adaptations Around Us


Image credit: Wikimedia Commons

The last great extinction occurred sixty five million years ago. You can visit the exact point on earth where it started, on the Yucatan peninsula of Mexico. The Chicxulub crater, more than 110 miles in diameter, was formed by the enormous impact of a meteor the size of San Francisco hitting the earth. Life on earth changed radically from that moment of impact.Scientists refer to the Chicxulub event as leading to the fifth great extinction. Today about 30,000 species a year are going extinct, three an hour, which qualifies us as being in the sixth great period of extinction in the history of our tiny blue planet. We can see it all around us. In 2009 the last wild jaguar in the United States was killed in a bungled attempt to save it by the Arizona Game and Fish Department. Even those people who debate global warming can't deny that the rate of extinctions is increasing.

The question is, how is humanity adapting to these changes? Paul Hawken writes in the Ecology of Commerce that sustainability is the question of how human culture will adapt to the limits of the natural world. I'm seeking your help to catalog these behaviorial extinctions and adaptations.

In some ways we may not be adapting at all. The world keeps on warming, and despite humanity's attempts we haven't committed to collectively reducing our carbon emissions. But in other ways we are adapting, swiftly, to this new reality. Car-sharing, reusable water bottles, and 5 megawatt wind turbines all are adaptations that we're making. Meanwhile other behaviors are growing extinct. Phone books, compact discs, and smoking in airplanes are all becoming things of the past.

I'm trying to build a list of these extinctions and adaptations, to create a primer from A-Z of humanity's extinctions and adaptations. Working with the artists Andrew Schoultz and Kyle Knobel we'll sketch them and create an ABC book that a child or a Senator could comprehend. We're only going to make a hundred copies, on an old, beautiful letterpress, an extinction in its own right. But we'll post them online as well. What human behaviors do you think are going extinct? What adaptations are we making?

Twitter them to me @adamwerbach or go to http://bit.ly/ex-adapt.

Adam Werbach is the author of Strategy for Sustainability and the Chief Sustainability Officer for Saatchi & Saatchi.
Read more about changing behaviors:
Cutting-Edge Retrofit vs Simple Behavior Change: Green Strategies Go Head-to-Head
Household Eco-Friendly Behavior Becoming Norm - But Still Most People Don't Bike or Take Public Transit
The World's Deepest Trash Bin and Other Behavior-Changing Inventions (Video)

Tags: Biodiversity | Environmental Footprint