In Brief—According to Bay, humanity and a sizeable portion of our fellow creatures stand a no better than 5% chance of surviving this century. He gives examples of why he has come to this conclusion. You are invited to comment on his conclusions.
Too Little, Too Late—
Why is extinction facing the inhabitants of Earth? Two words:
Now those readers who have other stuff to do or who simply believe that Bay is just being Bay can get on to that other stuff that’s more important to them. But for those who want to learn more about my reasoning, here’s the longer explanation for my pessimism, or “reality,” as I prefer to call it. Actually, I’m something of an optimist; I give humanity a 5% chance of surviving this century. I‘m not so sanguine about many of our fellow creatures, however.
After years of observation and increasing concern, I started a file labeled “Threat to Earth.” I created it because I was struck by the accounts I was reading that seemed serious enough to warrant further study. I recently reviewed the contents of that file and was amazed that humanity had wrought such egregious damage to the only home we have, planet Earth. Neither God nor science will save our bacon. Why? Two words:
Here’s a summation of some of what I find in the “Threat to Earth” file.
- The Poles are melting. Rivers are drying up. Crops are shriveling. Species are disappearing. Oceans are rising. Island nations are threatened. Whole populations are seeing their way of life disappear. World conferences end in stalemate. Years of warnings by experts and scientific organizations are ignored.
- Science shows that humans are governed by two impulses: emotions and rational risk analysis. Of those, the strongest is emotions. The latter, the human ability to weigh the relative risks, gives us the ability to make judgments regarding such relatively easy matters as auto safety and life expectancy. But when it comes to once unpredictable weather patterns and longer-term matters like ocean rises and overfishing, our emotions, anti-science bias and financial interests kick in.
- The planet’s human population is increasing from today’s almost seven billion to a predicted nine to ten billion by mid-century. Some concerned experts say the carrying capacity (ability to support the population) of Earth is just two billion—less than half of today’s population—while optimists say Earth can support as many as forty billion inhabitants.
- In 2009, Scientific American reported that Earth’s food supply was failing to expand sufficiently thereby threatening many with starvation. Still others warned of the diminishing of plant diversity brought about by monoculture, that is, by the more profitable planting of just one type of vegetation, e.g., palm oil trees or soy beans, among other reasons.
- Weather extremes are more frequent. Hurricanes are bigger. Temperatures all over the world are increasing at a faster rate than predicted causing crops to shrivel from lack of moisture, winter storms arrive earlier and are colder, rain in some locales falls in greater amounts leading to flooding, some rivers and lakes are shrinking to dangerous levels, underground aquifers are falling as expanding communities and farms demand more water than is produced by changing weather patterns. What underground water that isn’t disappearing is being polluted.
- Species unable to adapt to the climate change are shrinking to endangered levels. Modern technological giants like Monsanto produce chemicals that eradicate weeds but threaten migrating species of birds and insects like the Monarch butterfly or the bees necessary to pollinate many of our foodstuffs.
- Oceans are rising, becoming warmer and are heavily polluted by plastics, heavy metals and nuclear runoff. Intelligent species like dolphins are unexplainably dying and their meat, eaten by humans, is tainted with mercury. Whales are hunted to near extinction for food under the pretense that they must be killed for scientific purposes. Island nations like Tuvalu and the Seychelles complain that rising oceans are threatening their centuries-old civilizations.
- Nearly half of the planet’s coral reefs, the breeding grounds for 25% of the ocean’s species, are already dead or dying from acidification and oceanic warming. Carbon dioxide, which is higher than it has been in over three million years, is acidifying the ocean even as it warms Earth’s atmosphere.
- Politicians dawdle or are ignorant of the implications of the abundant evidence of unprecedented climate change. Fundamentalist religion, anti-science bias and pecuniary self-interest in the United States bears a large responsibility for the danger that threatens the world. If America were to throw its long-overdue weight behind an effective effort at dealing with climate change, China and the rest of the world’s nations would join in the effort for fear of being left behind. The likelihood of that happening, however, is vanishingly slim.
These are just a few of the items in my “Threat to Earth” file, but they are more than enough to lead me to believe that humanity and a goodly number of our fellow species have a no better than a 5% chance of surviving this century. And I have not even discussed the displacement of human populations that are rightly expected to result in conflicts with more established populations.
As much as I admire the scientific community, not only are they battling a well entrenched anti-science bias that has dominated America for too long, they are arriving too late to head off extinction. Neither will God come to the rescue. The universe will continue on its way without us, unaware that humanity ever existed.
I will not live long enough to witness the outcome of my prediction, but our grandchildren will. My guess is that the living will envy the dead. If you disagree with my views, by all means tell me, and why. I will give you facts that may change your mind and you might change mine, but let me hear from you.
A Reading Assignment—
By the way, I recommend you read The Sixth Extinction by Elizabeth Kolbert for a picture of the damage humans have caused and are causing. I consider that book one of the most important books ever written.