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This content is taken from the University of Cape Town's online course, Extinctions: Past and Present. Join the course to learn more.

Skip to 0 minutes and 7 seconds This week we spoke about the crises that biota on the planet currently face. We spoke to a number of different scientists. We spoke to Peter Ryan, Muthama Muasya, Denham Parker, Timm Hoffman and Lindsey Gillson about the current crises. And we’ve learnt how we, personally, can help avert the sixth extinction. In this course we have dissected the previous five extinction events and we can see how each of them led to devastation of the planet. However, as stewards of the planet, humans need to realise that we can learn from these previous mass extinction events. And we need to do everything it takes to ensure that we do not cause the sixth mass extinction event.

Skip to 0 minutes and 55 seconds Right now we are on the precipice but I believe that if we act now, we can change the course of this trajectory. We really need to do this, not for ourselves but for the future generations that will live on this planet.

Extinctions: Present and Future

Coming to the end of the course, we have shifted our gaze from the long distant past, towards the present and future. From my guests in this last week, we have heard details about human impacts on a variety of biota and species. We know that we are reaching a crisis point which many scientists believe are the warning signs of planetary stress.

As the dominant species today, we should see ourselves as earth stewards - taking care our environment so that it can sustain future generations of our species. As John Anderson said in week three, if we cause a ‘sixth extinction’, the planet will survive, but many, many species will not, including possibly our own.

But it is not too late to act, and our guests this week all spoke passionately about how individual actions can help to bring about change - whether this is monitoring the fish you buy to reducing the waste and pollution.

I hope you have enjoyed the course and the discussions. If you are interested in more, I have provided a few articles for further reading below. Aside from my ongoing scholarly work, I have previously written two popular science books, as well as several popular science articles. You may find my books, Fossils for Africa (published by Cambridge University Press) and Famous Dinosaurs of Africa offer useful complements to this course.

We hope you will leave us feedback below and if you enjoyed the course, tell others about it! Please post a review on Class Central, a website which has lists of all the free online courses available. This helps others find out about the course. Thanks for those whose reviews have helped place ‘Extinction: Past and Present’ on Class Central’s list of the top 100 MOOCs of all time.

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Extinctions: Past and Present

University of Cape Town