Perhaps proving that humankind should be pushed to extinction, a new school of thought suggests that we’re not on the brink of ecological disaster. Great.
Move over anti-vaxxers and climate deniers—there’s a new anti-science movement in town. Scientists have recently warned about the creeping rise of “extinction denial,” an organised attempt to discount the planet’s biodiversity crisis, driven by “politically well-connected and well-funded antagonists seeking to sabotage evidence-based policy for political and/or financial gain.”
The majority of scientists agree we’re on the cusp of the planet’s sixth mass extinction event, a scale of biodiversity loss not seen since the extinction of the dinosaurs 66 million years ago. While the previous mass extinctions occurred due to freaks of nature, the cause this time around is humans. Specifically, our deforestation, poaching, culling, hunting, pollution, habitat destruction, the introduction of invasive species, and climate change.
Certain individuals and groups, however, are attempting to resist the scientific evidence and replace it with a different narrative. Published in the journal Nature Ecology, an international team of conservationists created a report that argues that the novel extinction denials typically falls into three main categories: ‘species extinctions were predominantly a historical problem’, ‘economic growth alone will fix the extinction crisis’, and ‘technological progress and targeted conservation interventions will overcome extinction’.
The study also highlighted the fact that many scientific reports pertaining to biodiversity loss were met with a “swathe of opinion pieces criticized the report and attacked both the reputations of the report’s authors and the process of estimating the total number of species threatened with extinction.”
The scientific process is often synonymous with debate and criticism. However, those pushing the extinction denial are lacking evidence and are not acting in good faith, according to the researchers.
“Any attempts to take the global economy in a more sustainable direction will be undermined by some stakeholders seeking to maintain the status quo,” Alexander Lees, lead study author and senior lecturer in conservation biology at Manchester Metropolitan University, told Mongabay.
“Many of the same individuals that routinely seek to downplay the impacts of climate change have written articles understating the biodiversity loss crisis,” Lees says. “Denialists have sought to obfuscate the magnitude of both extinctions and loss of bio-abundance.”
The researchers sought solutions to deal with the mounting movement and they outlined their ideas in the report. Firstly, they believe it responsible to ignore those with a small enough platform to avoid amplifying their misinformation efforts. If they do have a sizeable following, however, the scientists recommend mounting a measured response.
They warn against getting dragged into ugly arguments against contrarian authors and journalists, adept in arguing positions as opposed to providing real evidence. Instead, be calm and respectful in response, providing evidence to back up claims.