Zack Gross
Zack Gross

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Many Species Including Humanity May Face Extinction

Brandon Sun “Small World” Column,  Monday, September 10 / 18

Zack Gross

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 healthfully absorb.

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 tenuous.

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 lead.

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 itself.

Zack Gross is a former Executive Director of Brandon’s The Marquis Project and now co-ordinates outreach for Fair Trade Manitoba.

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