Interestingly enough there are many people who feel the best thing for the planet is the extinction of humans. How likely is this to happen?
99.9% of all life that has ever lived on this planet is extinct, yet for some reason humans feel that humanity is somehow special and immune to extinction. Since most species go extinct within 10 million years, it is likely the same will happen to humans. One exception to this is when species are killed before their time due to an extinction event such as an ice age, or when a giant meteor smashes into the earth as is believe to have resulted in the mass extinction of many of the dinosaurs.
The United Nations has even warned that next to nuclear threat the one biggest risk to continued human existence is some of the problems we have caused by our own success, naming human overpopulation as the second biggest risk to our continued existence.
For the sake of keeping this site short, we will only list some of the suggested human caused reasons for our own extinction, should it occur. Thereby ignoring things such as the sun becoming a red giant in 5 billion years, or sudden volcanic activity.
Image via Wikipedia, the third world? No, this is water pollution in California.
- As we move around freely on the planet we carry diseases that may one day get out of hand and be our demise.
- As we insist on using pesticides to kill insects, will we one day reduce the honeybee and/or ant population levels so much that they cannot recover? Many people fail to realize that we depend on bees and ants to pollinate plant species we, or our food animals, rely on. Most scientists agree that humans will not more than 5 years without bees, or ants.
- A scientific accident could spiral out of control and kill us, or our food supplies. Such things could involve chemicals escaping, nanotechnology running amok, or the accidental creation of a black hole.
- Overpopulation means more resources are consumed, cities grow, farm land becomes more scarce. The demands could put countries at war for resources.
- Global warming as a result of human activity and encouraged by population growth makes the planet unsurvivable to humans, or a common food source.
- Again the result of global warming through overpopulation, we can expect to see sea levels rise, displacing people and creating food shortages like we have never seen. Many areas where food is now grown will be underwater.
- Pollution causes catastrophic changes that we cannot overcome. Most likely this would be air, or water pollution, but pollution of the soil is a real threat as well.
- Infertility as the result of chemical use could lead to tragic results. Although many movies (including The Children of Men) have addressed this concern, it must not be assumed that it is humans who would become infertile, it could be cattle, or worse, some type of plant.
- Global warming, again brought about though human activity, and increased by over population, will cause catastrophic problems in our oceans. As coral reefs die so will many fish who depend on them, and too will other species dependent on those ones, we will see a huge loss of marine life, this means a loss of everything we eat that comes from the sea.
- A dumbing of the gene pool. Humans are one of the few species who allow their weak members to reproduce. Weak genes lower a species tolerance to diseases on the whole as well as lower its ability to survive. Although this will probably not result in a mass extinction it could be viewed as a contributing factor.
- Development of terminator seeds (GMOs) could result in an environmental disaster if somehow this leaps into other crops and they would no longer produce any seeds.
- Voluntary Human Extinction is not likely to occur although some groups are promoting it. This is a planned program for people to simply not reproduce at all. In theory if enough people subscribed to the program a more sustainable planet could be attained.
- Our own inventions kill us. Basically a scenario offered by science fiction, whereby robots kill humans, could come true if we are not careful.
We could evolve. Chances are pretty good that our own success, and overpopulation, will do us in. But perhaps before it does a few people will be born with an genetic ability that gives them advantages in the future that the rest of us will not have. Thus those new beings will thrive in a future that is hostile to the rest. The ability to survive on less food, particularly less meat, is probably a survival skill that will be most advantageous to have. A smaller size, enabling the species to reduce housing sizes, thus consuming less, may be another advantage. The ability to deal naturally with climate extremes as brought about through global warming is another factor that may come into play for an evolutionary change. This new species might recognize that humans would be a threat to the health of the planet, and could launch a war against them.
If this new species were to control its intelligence, or be slightly less intelligent, they might not replicate the environmental damage done by humans, and thus would not be the cause of their own downfall.
The Irony being that if a new species did evolve (and kill all humans) this may be the best hope for anyone who believes in immortality through our genes. It would at least mean some traces of humanity would continue, where as most other (human caused) scenarios could wipe out human genetics completely.
Sure most of this is Alarmist type stuff, but remember, even the United Nations themselves has been saying for many years that the biggest threat to continued human existence is ourselves. In the 1990’s they placed nuclear threat as the number one concern, human overpopulation as the second concern. Warning that our population of over 7 Billion people is already causing world problems, and that a more sustainable level would be 5 Billion people.
According to previous extinction patterns humans have a few million more years on the planet, if we do not manage to destroy it or ourselves first. Unfortunately we have been responsible for the extinction of thousands (if not millions) of other animals already, when will we realize that we are not immune.