By N.J. Griffen, English, ’17
“Stephen Hawking at the end of last year wrote an article for The Guardian saying: ‘…we are at the most dangerous moment in the development of humanity. We now have the technology to destroy the planet on which we live, but have not yet developed the ability to escape it. Perhaps in a few hundred years, we will have established human colonies amid the stars, but right now we only have one planet, and we need to work together to protect it.’ In spirit of Hawking’s eerie warning to humanity, I chose to write this article to consider the variable possibility of a self-imposed extinction of humanity.”
In this age of reinvigorated populism, it is easy to forget that with the ever-expanding population of humans that exist across the planet, we face more than a handful of problems that threaten the longevity of our species.
Due to climate change, sea levels have risen and the oceans are warming. Around the world, our seas have been forced into a state of acidification due to the amount of CO₂ that is constantly being pushed into the atmosphere.
Naturally, this change in the environment has given way to killing off various keystone specie such as coral reefs. This has become a catalyst of sorts for other species to die off, posing a severe problem for biodiversity.
For humanity, the severity of this problem is mounting, especially in specific geographic locations.
Coastal cities around the world have been forced to acknowledge the imminent threat that the melting of the polar ice caps poses towards civilization. This has caused immediate issues for low altitude fishing communities and has ignited the beginning of a large scale immigration crisis, as many nations struggle to cope with the encroachment of the seas.
The enormity of our population as a species won’t only be causing issues in terms of where we will be able to live and where our displaced refugees will be forced to flee to, but it beckons the question: Will the planet be able to sustain such an immense human population?
Food poses a mounting problem in its availability and distribution, which will cause foreseeable political and scientific turmoil. Humanity has reached the 7.5 billion mark and isn’t expected to slow down anytime soon.
Simply by living, humans have induced a new era of mass extinction. According to the Center for Biological Diversity, “…99 percent of currently threatened species are at risk from human activities, primarily those driving habitat loss, introduction of exotic species, and global warming.”
The article continues on and states: “…because every species’ extinction potentially leads to the extinction of others bound to that species in a complex ecological web, numbers of extinctions are likely to snowball in the coming decades as ecosystems unravel.” At the rate that species of plants and animals are dying off, the implications that this issue poses towards the environment and the quality of life for humans appears to be bleak if nothing changes.
With the fall of biodiversity, it is questionable whether humanity will be able to live in a world of self-imposed homogeneity. From our current standpoint, it seem that to prevent the world from becoming a seethingly hot and uninhabitable planet, we will need to remind ourselves of the importance that plants and animals have in reciprocating life.
To solve the crisis of the destruction of the environment, humanity must be able to consciously acknowledge our interdependence on nature. The variable nations and industries that have cumulatively brought humanity to where it now stands must answer, since the fate of life on earth now remains in our hands.
That is unless there happens to be thermonuclear war, a betrayal by artificial intelligence, widespread disease, or something entirely different.
1.“This is the most dangerous time for our planet.” Theguardian.com. 1 Dec. 2016. Web. (https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2016/dec/01/stephen-hawking-dangerous-time-planet-inequality)
- “The Extinction Crisis.” biologicaldiversity.org. 5 May. 2017. Web. (http://www.biologicaldiversity.org/programs/biodiversity/elements_of_biodiversity/extinction_crisis/)