Chapter Thirty — Good-bye
A Short History of Nearly Everything – by Bill Bryson
Chapter 30 — Good-bye
- From beginning to end, our acquaintance with animate dodo birds on the island of Mauritius lasted just 70 years. That is an incredibly short period. Mankind has become very adept at eradicating species. Nobody knows quite how destructive humans are, but it is a fact that over the last 50,000 years or so, wherever we have gone animals have tended to vanish, usually in large numbers.
- In America alone, 30 genera of large animals disappeared practically at a stroke after the arrival of modern humans (10,000 or 20,000 years ago).
- North and South America lost about 75% of their large animals once ‘man the hunter’ arrived with his spears and organizational abilities.
- Europe and Asia lost 40 to 50% of their large animals. Australia lost 95% of their large animals.
- As many as 10 million mammoth carcasses are thought to lie frozen in the tundra of northern Siberia alone.
- The Darling Downs hopping mouse, the Chatham Islands swan, the Ascension Island flightless crake, at least 5 types of large turtles, and many other species are forever lost to us due to the intrusion of humans.
- A cat that belonged to a lighthouse keeper on a remote New Zealand island unknowingly killed all remaining birds of a species called the Stephens Island flightless wren. Twelve stuffed museum specimens is all that remains of this species.
- The beautiful Carolina parakeet was systematically exterminated by farmers in the southeastern United States because the birds were considered pests. None now exist.
- It is a truly astounding fact that for the longest time the people who were most intensely interested in the world’s living things were the ones most likely to extinguish them.
- Walter Rothschild was obsessed with collecting animal species. He and his hunters were responsible for the extinction of the koa finch and the lesser koa finch. Rothschild and his team were responsible for the elimination of at least nine separate species of Hawaiian birds.
- Norman Meyers, in 1979, postulated that human activities were responsible for the extinguishing of 2 species per week planet-wide, those species including animals, plants, and insects. He later increased his estimates.
- The point of this book is that ‘we’, meaning every living thing, are extremely lucky to be on this earth. As humans, we enjoy not only the privilege of existing, but also the singular ability to appreciate our existence.
- Beings who can speak and create and organize have only existed for about 0.0001% of Earth’s history!
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