Our Planet Has Survived Five Mass Extinctions Smithsonian Channel and Tangled Bank Studios Partner To Investigate Whether We Are On The Brink Of A Sixth MASS EXTINCTION:LIFE AT THE BRINK Premieres Sunday, November 30 At 8 PM

New York, NY, September 17, 2014 - It’s a mystery on a global scale: five times in Earth’s past, life has been nearly extinguished, the vast majority of plants and animals annihilated in a geologic instant. What triggered these dramatic events? And what might they tell us about the fate of our world? MASS EXTINCTION: LIFE AT THE BRINK, narrated by Jeffrey Wright, a new one-hour special premiering Sunday, November 30 at 8 p.m. ET/PT on Smithsonian Channel, is produced by Tangled Bank Studios, the film and television unit of the Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI).

The program joins scientists around the globe in search of answers to two of the most dramatic mass extinctions: the “K/T Extinction,” which wiped out the dinosaurs, and “The Great Dying,” which 250 million years ago annihilated nearly 90% of all Earth’s species. These early mass extinctions could hold clues for what may be happening today.

University of California, Berkeley Paleontologist Anthony Barnosky suspects that the wheels may already be in motion to trigger the sixth mass extinction. Only this time, instead of volcanoes or asteroids, humans are the trigger. In bones of ancient animals, in tidal pools in California, and in forests in Yellowstone National Park, the evidence is mounting. As humans reduce habitat for other species and alter the atmosphere, we are pushing plants and animals toward extinction around 12 times faster than normal rates. But Barnosky, author of the new book Dodging Extinction, says it is not too late to halt that trend.