Three years ago, author Elizabeth Kolbert argued that Earth was experiencing its sixth extinction — an accelerated and global phenomenon characterized by the mass disappearance of entire species. The planet experienced five such mass events in its history, including at the end of Permian Age, commonly associated with the end of the dinosaur era. But, Kolbert writes, the sixth extinction is distinct from all its predecessors: It’s the first one caused by man.
For National Geographic photographer Sean Gallagher, Kolbert’s book vividly lays out the severity of the crisis. “Through habitat destruction, pollution and climate change, species are disappearing across the world at alarming rates,” he tells In Sight.
A study published in the summer in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences confirms Gallagher’s fears: In the past 100 years, some of the 177 most common mammals have lost 30 percent or more of their geographic ranges and “more than 40% of the species have experienced severe population declines.” The study, written by professors at Stanford and Mexico City, called it “biological annihilation.”
Yet Gallagher feels this mass extinction event remains largely unknown among the general public. “The issue is covered from time to time in mainstream media, but it isn’t getting the attention it so desperately needs,” he says. That’s why he, with 24 other photographers, launched the Everyday Extinction feed on Instagram.
“I have been using Instagram as a key way to share environmental issues with my audience, but I realized that there was no one feed that was highlighting the biodiversity extinction crisis,” Gallagher tells In Sight. Inspired by the Everyday Africa feed, which attempt to combat the usual cliches associated with the continent, Everyday Extinction’s aim is to raise awareness of this ongoing crisis through the work of established photographers and scientists alike. “I think [the latter] is very important as it provides a unique viewpoint from those working on the ground to address this crisis,” he adds.
Here’s a selection of images shared on the Everyday Extinction account, which launched Oct. 1.
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