We’re all doomed
I’m not a pessimist. Actually, I probably am a pessimist come to think of it, but I’ve got high hopes for the future. I guess I’m an optimistic pessimist, then.
So, why are we all doomed? My argument is quite simple really: we’re 10,000 years into a major mass extinction event and we are the dominant species of the megafauna. That’s not a good thing. Last time we had a mass extinction event of this magnitude, at least 75% of the species disappeared and a majority of those belonged to the megafauna.
The current extinction level event (ELE) is called the Holocene extinction event, and it is clear that it’s one of the fastest ever recorded. In fact, the rate of extinction is currently so high that it’s measured in extinctions per minute (estimated to a value of 0.27). This can be translated to more than 140,000 species per year.
Now, we all know that there is a lot of life on this planet. There are literary millions of species, perhaps as many as a 100 million. Even so, we’re looking at the loss of the majority of all lifeforms by the end of this century. This will drastically change the appearance of our environment, and its supporting capabilities. Gone will be the tropical rainforests of South America and Asia, gone will be the big hordes of antelope and zebra on the plains of Africa, and gone will be all the big cats like tigers and lions, as well as most of the primates like gorillas, orangutans and lemurs. In fact, many species still around today are already considered ecologically extinct – like the giant panda and the white rhino. They will no doubt live on a few more years in zoos and nature reserves, but their fate is sealed.
All of this will of course have a huge effect on our human society. With the loss of the majority of habitats and species disappearing everywhere, an ecological crisis is inevitable. This will not only affect the people living off these habitats but it will also affect the climate, which will in turn wreak havoc with our agriculture. This will lead to mass starvation, which will lead to huge migrations of people and (inevitably) war.
So what about those high hopes? If it’s all going south, what could possibly be the silver lining? My point is that this is not the first major mass extinction, nor will it be the last. Life will, indeed, find a way. And even if we’re not going to be part of the future of this planet, there will still be a future. This really is the greatest show on earth, and no doubt some other species will one day – millions of years from now – look up into the sky and wonder: “What’s out there?”.
My bet is that that species will be an octopus..