Enter the Anthropocene : Just how F@#*£d are we?

The defining issue of our era is that human beings  are unable to stop their grossly detrimental  effect on our planet’s ecosystems.

Between climate change, ocean acidification, fracking, landfills and deforestation, the natural environment is being choke-slammed by the homosapien menace.

If the collective human race had to apply to live on a new planet, this is what our CV/resume might look like:

Personal information Bidedal ape with over-developed neocortex.
Skills Making tools , abstract thought , planking.
Personal statement YOLO.
Reference Mr Dodo – Not available for comment.

 

We probably wouldn’t get an interview.

This human dominated era we live in has been awarded its own Geological time period: The anthropocene. Scientists agree that this era began just after the industrial revolution in 1760 and for the first time in known history a single species is causing massive and catastrophic changes in our planet’s climate and ecosystems.

The short clip below, from Arlind Boshnjaku, gives an excellent (if a bit terrifying) visual summary of human caused environmental changes over the last 300 years.

Take a look at this graph of the global human population from the United States census bureau.

World Population Against Time
World population (in billions) against time

 

It’s hard to be optimistic about the future of the planet when the vandals responsible for destroying it are breeding exponentially. We may be about to trigger what’s known as a mass extinction event.

What makes this issue even more frustrating is that we are aware of what’s happening but collectively as race we seem unable to stop our adverse behaviour. Environmental initiatives continue to come up short against the might of the fossil fuel industry.

I hate to quote Russell Brand but we really are in need of an “environmental revolution“.

While it is easy to throw blame at corporate industry, we are all part of this problem. It seems humans are only programmed to care about events no further than 60-70 years in the future, we have lots of things thrown at us in life and people find it hard to care about what kind of world we will leave for our grandchildren’s grandchildren’s grandchildren.

Before you think I am trying to ruin your day with all this depressing shit, you may be reassured to learn that the planet has dealt with mass extinctions before.

There are 5 mass extinctions in the fossil record, they are periods of time where over 50% of species have gone extinct (in the case of the End-Ordovician mass extinction it was around 82-88%). These events where probably caused by a sharp change in environmental conditions such as volcanic activity or a gigantic  7 mile wide space rock slamming into the earth with 100 million megatons of force. That’s two million times more powerful than the largest nuke bomb ever developed.

It also may surprise you to learn that more than 99% of all species that have ever lived on Earth are now extinct; it is a completely normal process that happens for a variety of natural reasons.

Life on our planet has been through a hell of a lot and still managed to prosper in an incredibly diverse manner, spreading to all but the most inhospitable areas of the globe.

However my point isn’t that we can be complacent about this.

For all the mass extinction events that have happened in the past, this one could be the most catastrophic, and it really could be the end of the human species as well as so many others which are perhaps less deserving of obliteration.

As I said before I am with Brand on this, we are in need of an environmental revolution. It is just reassuring to know that biological life in its unfathomable diversity will almost certainly recover no matter how bad we fuck everything up.

At least until the sun goes supernova.

i

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