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New documentary explores possibility of mass extinction

Scientists have sent out many warnings over the years that climate change and other man-made actions may be responsible for a cataclysmic event – human species’ self-destruction. Past extinctions are examined closely in a new documentary titled “Mass Extinction: Life at the Brink,” broadcasting on the Smithsonian Channel on Sunday.

The documentary references the oft-discussed dinosaur extinction, believed to have occurred when an asteroid hit the Earth like “a hundred million nuclear bombs,” The Washington Post reports. Another species pointed out as being in danger of extintion is the African lion, the population of which once stood at 400,000 and has dropped 90 percent.

A biologist in the film provides the background on the studies looking into the dwindling number of lions, while the International Union for Conservation of Nature blamed “indiscriminate killing” and “prey base depletion,” according to the Post.

The most compelling example brought forth by executive producer of “Mass Extinction: Life at the Brink” is the K/T Extinction and “The Great Dying,” which happened some 250 million years ago. Sean B. Carroll, an evolutionary biologist, said researchers have discovered that the latter was “caused by massive volcanic eruptions underneath present-day Siberia; and that just pumped massive amounts of climate-changing gases, including massive amounts of carbon dioxide.”

The documentary concludes that because “humans decrease habitat for other species and change the atmosphere,” it may lead to “plants and animals are moving toward extinction around 12 times faster than normal rates,” according to Beta Wire.