With global warming and violent conflict around the world, it’s not surprising that the question of humanity’s future longevity on planet Earth is being asked. But, while we speculate in response to news headlines, Stanford Scientists are taking a more clinic approach and have come to the conclusion that civilization will end in the “next few decades.”
This comes following a recent appearance on CBS’s 60 Minutes program where scientists discussed global mass extinction. Stanford Biologist Tony Barnosky, suggested that, through his work examining fossil records and ecosystem changes, current extinction rates are roughly 100 times higher than typically seen at any other point in Earth’s four billion year history.
Earth is currently experiencing the worst mass extinction event since the dinosaurs. Although the Earth may continue to turn after extinctions, life on the planet does not. But will that include humans?
Paul Ehrlich published a book in 1968 called ‘The Population Bomb’ where he addressed overpopulation and mass extinction. Today, over 50 years later, his predictions are becoming more and more real.
Even if the human race survives its society will crumble because of changes in habitat destruction, soil infertility and changes in our food chain. It’s all down to too many people and too much consumption. “Humanity is not sustainable,” explained Paul Ehrlich. “To maintain our lifestyle (yours and mine, basically) for the entire planet, you’d need five more Earths.”
“It is too much to say that we’re killing the planet, because the planet’s gonna be fine,” added Tony Barnosky. “What we’re doing is we’re killing our way of life. There are five times in Earth’s history where we had mass extinctions, at least 75% of the known species disappearing from the face of the Earth. Now we’re witnessing what a lot of people are calling the sixth mass extinction where the same thing could happen on our watch.”
And this warning is only repeated by other experts. In fact, it’s more unlikely that you find an expert who doesn’t think we’re in an extinction crisis, than does.
The World Wildlife Fund’s research found that life on Earth was sustainable in the year 1970 when there were 3.5 billion people on the planet. Today there are 8 billion people – a number which is growing at an alarming rate and forcing animals to different parts of the planet in an attempt to survive. The research also added that since 1970, 69% of global wildlife has collapsed. Humans have taken over 70% of the planet as well as 70% of the freshwater, pushing other animals, and plants, into extinction.
Could things change? Mexican ecologist Gerardo Ceballos believes the only solution would be to save the one third of Earth that is currently wild and is involved in a scheme to pay farmers to stop cutting the forests in Guatemala. But these small scale schemes need to be scaled up 10,000 times to have any chance of making a difference.
Paul Ehrlich’s thoughts for the future: “there’s no political will to do any of the things that I’m concerned with, which is exactly why I and the vast majority of my colleagues think we’ve had it; that the next few decades will be the end of the kind of civilization we’re used to.”