Humans by the Numbers: .00000001%

There are 7.5 billion people on our planet, and that number grows by 1.1% each year. Still, as a species, we make up just 0.1% of the total biomass on earth. And when you consider that life has existed here for approximately 3.8 billion years, it’s even more humbling to think that humans have been around for no more than 0.2% of that time.

If that doesn’t provide perspective, look at it this way: There are around 100,000,000 species sharing our planet today, yet that represents only 1/10 of 1% of all species that have ever been here. And with extinction now happening at rates 1,000 to 10,000 times faster than before humans evolved, we could lose up to 50,000 species each year. That equates to 137 a day — or 6 every hour! Lost forever, and many without us ever having a chance to really get to know and understand them. Which should truly shake us since it’s estimated that 99% of currently threatened species are at risk primarily due to human activity.

As a species, we are only .00000001% of the planet’s inhabitants. Yet we disproportionately affect the other species we share the earth with. We might not take diversity for granted, but it is much more integral to our existence than many people imagine.

From the Center for Biological Diversity:

“Beyond its intrinsic value, biodiversity is necessary to human survival. Ecosystem diversity is crucial to ecosystem integrity, which in turn enables our life support, giving us a livable climate, breathable air and drinkable water. Food-crop diversity and pollinating insects and bats allow agriculture to support our populations; when disease strikes a food crop, only diversity can save the system from collapse. Plant and animal diversity provide building blocks for medicine, both current and potential; almost half of the pharmaceuticals used in the United States today are manufactured using natural compounds, many of which cannot be synthesized. They also provide critical industrial products used to build our homes and businesses, from wood and rubber to the fuels that underpin our economies — even coal and oil are the products of ancient plant matter and preserved zooplankton remains.

Biodiversity plays a central mythic and symbolic role in our language, religion, literature, art and music, making it a key component of human culture with benefits to society that have not been quantified but are clearly vast. From our earliest prehistory, people have never lived in a world with low biodiversity. We’ve always been dependent on a varied and rich natural environment for both our physical survival and our psychological and spiritual health. As extinctions multiply, and cannot be undone, we tread further and further into unexplored terrain — a journey from which there is no return.”

In the past 25 years, the human population grew by a whopping 2 billion, while the populations of almost all other mammals, reptiles, amphibians and fish have declined by nearly 30 percent.

We are an intelligent species, capable of recognizing the value that other species bring to our existence. Now it’s a matter of embracing the wisdom of biodiversity while we and those species still have time.