Many Species Including Humanity May Face Extinction
Sun “Small World” Column, Monday, September 10 / 18
Oh no, not another “the sky is falling” article! They can
be depressing, unless it’s depressing articles that turn you
on! As I’ve said in this column in the past, I watch the
TV news less often and skip over articles on Facebook more
frequently, as there is only so much bad news that a person can
With the recent attempt by the US Administration to speed up
global warming and kill off more species with decisions about
resource extraction (mineral, flora and fauna) and changes in
the relative strength of government oversight and corporate
control, an article on animal extinction, which always hits home
to the reader, seemed in the offing.
Then, I came across a recent article from Huffington Post saying
that at the current time, many species would likely outlive
us. And likely none of them would miss us. The world
would carry on, probably quite stably and probably with many
natural improvements, once we are gone. That may seem kind
of insulting, but swallow your pride and read on about the eight
dangers humanity faces as our place on the planet becomes more
The Big Bang Theory is not just a television sitcom. And
it’s not just a theory! Back in the Age of Dinosaurs, 65
million years ago, a meteor struck Earth, changing the planet
forever. It was about 9 miles (14 km) long and its impact
on Earth was the equivalent of a billion Hiroshima bombs.
There are other meteors and asteroids out there and we are now
able to track their movement in space, but could we stop one if
it headed our way?
Then, there’s nuclear war, supposedly put aside as a danger
after the Cold War ended in 1990. However, now a growing
number of states have the bomb or are working toward it.
We might have Iran and North Korea to fear, as well as the US,
Russia and the traditional nuclear states. The retreat of
democracy and moderation in today’s world would lead one to
believe that all-out war is again a possibility.
The Venus Syndrome is a theory related to climate change (what
used to be called global warming) wherein the fear is that as we
have less land covered in snow and ice, we will heat up beyond
stopping as the dark earth absorbs the sun’s rays.
Ultimately, we will approximate the planet Venus, very similar
to us in many ways but so hot there that the climate can melt
The disruption of weather patterns is something we are more
familiar with, in our new age of increased rainfall or drought,
hurricanes and tornadoes, extreme temperatures both high and
low, and more. Nowadays, we have historic floods in India,
historic heat in Europe, historic drought in Australia, and
historic wildfires all over the planet. It’s the
destruction to human habitation and the loss of food crops and
livestock that will claim us.
Extinction of species – finally! Yes, we’ll have
less to eat as species die off. We won’t just lose those
species, but that loss will lead to unbalancing the whole
system. Loss of a predator means increase in other
animals. Over fishing or allowing effluent in waterways
has its affect. We’ve domesticated much of what we eat,
but livestock and many crops have a profound impact on the
environment with the addition of antibiotics, hormones,
fertilizers, pesticides, inefficient irrigation, tannery
chemicals, animal waste and more.
Viruses are not just a danger to our computers, although we’ll
get to that! The Influenza of 1918 killed at least 20
million people worldwide and, in recent years, virologists have
been developing the means to prevent that happening again.
We also, of course, have seen the return of diseases we thought
we’d eradicated, as well as outbreaks of ebola, as one example,
that in our modern age of travel, moved from Africa to Europe
and North America.
If that isn’t scary enough, what if one state used a disease or
virus against another one? Bioweapons may allow war to be
waged via the flu or smallpox. We’ve recently seen murder
by uranium and nerve agents as a means to control dissent in our
world. And we’ve had accounts of gas and biological
warfare in some of the world’s hotspots.
Let’s end this list with a mention of cyber-attacks. We’ve
seen them used in politics and in the business world – hacking
is one word for it. It’s also been used by “the West” in
attacks on enemy/rival nuclear programs. But one state
could use a cyber-attack to impact the operation of a dam or a
nuclear reactor or a hospital or the internet and on and on.
These are not small issues. We need earth-encompassing
policies that everyone buys into in order to not just save the
tigers or the bluebirds, but indeed to save humanity, from
Gross is a former Executive Director of Brandon’s The Marquis
Project and now
co-ordinates outreach for Fair