Pub. date: 2008 | Online Pub. Date: May 28, 2008 | DOI: 10.4135/9781412963930 | Print ISBN: 9781412941655 | Online ISBN: 9781412963930| Publisher:SAGE Publications, Inc.About this encyclopedia
Thomas L. Fleischner
Extinction—the permanent disappearance of a species from the earth—can be thought of as the ultimate social problem. When our neighbors disappear from the planet forever, our potential social interactions are forever diminished. Extinction is not a new phenomenon. What is new, however, is the current rate of extinction, which is dramatically higher than any in the geologic record, and the fact that for the first time ever, a single species—our own—is the cause of this high rate of extinction. This is why extinction represents a serious social and environmental problem. Lust as every person will die someday, so too will every species eventually go extinct. In fact, almost all species that have ever existed on earth have already gone extinct. Paleontologist David Raup has estimated that 99.9 percent of all species in Earth's history have gone extinct (or, conversely, that today's living world represents only 0.1 percent of the variety ...