That's a word that conjures up images of dinosaurs, trilobites or the giant sloths of South America. But since these have never been known to exist in modern times, to us they are just visions from the past. None of us alive today have had the opportunity to see one, or touch its warm, living body. But what I am thinking of are the modern creatures who have only recently become exctinct, or today face extinction. The Dodo is a classic example. The Tasmanian Tiger is another. Animals like the Orang Utan - thought to be one of humankind's closest relatives - today face extinction.
What would it be like to look at a photograph of an animal and say "Yesterday it was alive, today it is extinct", and know that we had it within our power to have prevented it from becoming so?
Soon, we will have the power to create new species, by means of genetic engineeering. Perhaps, then we could recreate the dodo and the Tasmanian Tiger. But it would be much easier to have let them live, and let those alive today continue to live, than to destroy all and sundry in the name of progress.
We must do something soon to solve the problem before we render even ourselves extinct. For example, if just a small fraction of the money spent on weapons was shunted for research into, for example, the synthetic production of the raw materials for which some of these animals are hunted, or if it was used for the construction of research stations such as the one on Jersey*, then perhaps some real progress could be made.
It gives me hope when I see organisations like Greenpeace, and the excellent work they do. And mining and lumber companies are now recognizing the value of spending time & effort on rehabilitating the envonment which is providing them with their livelihood.
We are making a little progress, and there is still a long way to go. Let's hope we stop killing before it is too late. I can just imagine, many billions of years in the future, the new dominant species on Venus looks through its telescope at the barren face of Earth and wonders if it ever held intelligent life.
I sometimes wonder that, too.
*The research station in Jersey, sometimes known as "The Stationary Ark" involves itself with the keeping, breeding and studying of rare and endangered species.