Unfortunately, things aren’t looking too good for many species on the planet. Scientists have warned that we are currently living in a mass extinction event, the sixth of its kind in Earth’s history. The Guardian reports that a scientific paper published in 2017 called the situation a “biological annihilation,” and that, like climate change, the problem is actually much worse than previously thought.
And to what do we owe this vicious onslaught on the rich biodiversity the Earth has created over the eons? Our own destructive selves, of course. The paper cited humanity’s overpopulation and overconsumption of resources for the massive die-off of entire species. The news is a real bummer, yes, but it’s also a dire warning, for Homo sapiens are among the species whose continued existence on this planet is threatened. The scientists called the results of our insatiable appetite for resources and utter lack of will to dispose of them properly a “frightening assault on the foundations of human civilization.”
If that sounds a little dramatic to you, history would like to provide you with a reality check. The annals of human decadence tell a story of extinction and collapse that could serve as a template for what’s in store for us today. Let’s take a look at why the atlas bear went extinct, and what it can tell us about our own behavior toward nature and its creatures.
The atlas bear unfortunately lived too close to the Roman Empire
One of the unfortunate victims of this human-caused extinction event was the atlas bear. According to Bear Conservation, the atlas bear was thusly named due to its habitat among the Atlas Mountains of North Africa, which span from modern-day Morocco to Libya. As bears tend to do, it liked the forested areas of the mountains, and was the only bear subspecies to have survived in Africa well into the historic era.
But by that time, the bear faced a new threat: sport hunters from the Roman Empire, which arrived in North Africa around 146 BC. As the empire thrived and grew, wealthy Romans took up hunting the atlas bear for sport, killing thousands of specimens over the centuries. According to Ecology and Society, overexploitation of renewable resources has been signaled as a factor for the empire’s collapse. It is believed that modern man finished the atlas bear off sometime in the 1870s. The bear was unfortunately one of many species to meet this terrible fate at our hand. Hopefully we don’t become victims of our own bad behavior and go extinct ourselves in the near future.
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