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The Cause of Human Extinction: Nature’s Ferocity or People’s Irresponsibility? Essay

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Updated: Sep 12th, 2021

The Cause of Human Extinction: Nature’s ferocity or People’s irresponsibility?

The creation of the Universe as we know it now remains a big mystery to scientists. There has been much speculation about the origins of the Universe, but much of it remains mere theory. Religious sects, on the other hand, have all the answers, and brook no arguments about it. Whatever religion considered will tell you the world was created by the highest power, the Great One, the Creator who may go by many names but essentially the same conceptual entity.

Scientists are unlikely to accept this on faith. However, while there may be a wide gap on the theory of creation, there is one thing that scientists and the faithful agree on based on their respective mantra. The end of the world is near.

In fact, scientists base this assumption on facts. One fact is the extinction of the dinosaurs that makes the possibility of an extinction level event happening. Another fact is the present global climate change that makes for a slower but nonetheless progressive destruction of the human race, and many other races for that matter, very possible. Those of a more religious persuastion ascribe imminent destruction to human agency as a product of waywardness and a refusal to follow the righteous path. Strangely enough, these two seemingly apposite convictions have two elements in common: nature and humanity.

This paper seeks to look into history and determine to what degree nature can be blamed for the apparently inevitable destruction of the human race, and to what level humans should be held accountable. The following sections will provide statistical data and projections as well as non-scientific scenarios for the end of the world and the extinction of the human race.

The Apocalypse

Humans are just one of the many billions of life forms that has been lucky enough to call this planet home. But sooner or later, that luck will run out. In fact, over 99% of the species that are ever existed on Earth are now extinct. Every one of this billion species that died from recent extinction doesn’t have enough intellect as we have now. Can this intellect save us from the next possible extinction? Or we are the one who will dig our own grave into the end of our civilization?

For centuries, religion all around the world has warning believers about the end of the world. Muslims, Christians and Jews all preach that the final days are marked by crises, violence and destruction beyond our imagination. Some refer to it as the Armageddon, some the Apocalypse. Science, on the other hand, has not made it any better, predicting their own apocalyptic scenarios.

Gamma Rays

Scientists said that in 10 million years, the sun would; ergo so will the human race and any other living thing that needs the sun to survive. Of course, stars die everyday and as they die they unleash the most powerful force in the universe. According to some cosmologists, a dying sun emits a radioactive light brighter than millions or trillions of stars. Imagine if that power were unleash upon us, the result would be catastrophic.

Not enough people take pause and reflect on our own true place in universe, we like to think of ourselves as having power over our fate despite the fact that the power of the universe is vastly exceeded. For instance, a nova explosion or gamma ray burst is one of the powerful events in our cosmos. A gamma ray burst is the final collapse of a star.

Scientists have seen these explosions that occur on a daily basis in other galaxies. These gamma rays are far enough away to keep the Earth and its inhabitants safe. They merely manifest as a sort of cosmic anomaly, perhaps like a “shooting star.” However, if a gamma ray burst occurs near enough, such as in our own galaxy, it will be strong enough to wipe out all life on earth, including humans.

Gamma ray bursts travel at the speed of light. Consequently, places around the world would have no warning that an outer space disaster is about to unfold. If the gamma ray burst ruptures it would be the brightest thing on the night or day on the sky. As a result, you will see two suns during the day and there would be no night. If you see it, you know something bad is happening.

The nearest star from the earth that could explode is 8,000 light years away. However, even at that distance, such a burst could be catastrophic. The book Gamma-Ray Burst Astronomy 2001 describes these catastrophic scenarios. First, as the light hits the earth, it will boil the whole top of the earth’s atmosphere and the consequences of that is bad enough. It will take out the ozone layer that protects the earth from cosmic radiation. As it penetrates the earth’s crust, the energy of the radiation will destroy the very building blocks of life. The ultra violet radiation would burn people through. Without the ozone layer, every living thing with sight will be blinded. Within days, the radiation will begin to impact all living things in the molecular level, stopping all cells from reproducing.

Most of the living things on earth would not survive this kind of radiation. After one month, all life forms would be gone from the face of the earth. If any life survives at all, it would be the simplest organisms, microbes that thrive under the earth’s surface and therein lies some hope that life on earth will continue. However, humans will not be among them.

Asteroid Impact

Another danger our civilization faces is an asteroid impact. About 65 million years ago, a major asteroid hit the earth that is believed to be the primary cause of dinosaur extinction. Could their fate be ours as well? Can our advanced technology and scientific knowledge save us from suach an impact?

Asteroids are chunks of rock believed to be the debris left over from a birth of a planet. They could be as small as a golf ball or as huge as the state of Nevada.

According to book “The Planetary Scientist’s Companion”, by K. Lodders and B. Fegley, asteroids are found within the main elt that lies between Mars and Jupiter. Its speed ranges from 800-1000 ft/sec. It is about 60 times faster than an average bullet.

To keep us from going the way of dinosaurs, a network of professional and amateur astronomer around the globe are exploring the galaxy. They map and name every asteroid they can find. After naming them, they study their movement pattern to identify if it is a possible threat in our planet. So far they have located over a 100,000 asteroids, but not one of them was found to have the potential to wreak destruction on Earth, until 2006.

In 2006, astronomers discovered a 390-meter wide asteroid they named Aphopis and it is likely to come within striking distance of the Earth in the near future.

The article from “Guardian Unlimited” December 2005 issue, reports that on Friday the13th, April 2029, the asteroid Aphopis will come close enough the earth to dip into our orbit and will just miss us. However, some scientists said that depending on how the earth’s gravity will affects it orbit, it is projected to make a return trip seven years later. Depending on where it passes in 2029, there is a good probability it will strike the when it comes back in 2036.The article further explains that if Aphopis actually hits the earth in 2036, the effects would be devastating. It would create a tsunami 100 feet high that would rise above the ocean with supersonic speed. It is big enough to create the worst damage of life on earth in recorded history. They estimate that the impact is capable of washing California away. However, asteroid Aphopis is not big enough to wipe us out completely. But the probabilities that an even bigger asteroid will be coming towards the earth are high. So what are humans doing to address this deadly threat?

According to Robert Roy Britt’s article from Space.com, NASA has already formulated a plan to save the earth from an asteroid impact. Regardless of what filmmakers would have us believe, the worse thing we could do is to blow it up; all that will do is to break up a big asteroid into many smaller ones than can cause even more damage. Instead, NASA deems what they need is a ship that is capable of flying millions of miles into space to rendezvous with the asteroid. The plan is to use the ship’s gravitational pull to nudge the asteroid slightly off course. The tiny gravitational pull from the asteroid and the spacecraft should be enough to push the asteroid into a new path so a few years later it will miss the earth.

However, that’s only a theory. There is no such spacecraft, not even the blueprints for one. If we can put this plan into action and it succeeds, perhaps it will save humanity. If it fails, the scientists would know a long time in advance. If nothing else, it will reveal to us the exact date our world will come to an end.

Doomsday scenarios

How would you behave if you knew when the world would end? Would you go to school or work? Would you pay your debts? As the final days approach, would our lives descend into turmoil? Or would we tie together and look for something more? There would probably more people who will party because they realize that they only a little time left. Other people will spend time praying and repenting for their sins before their death. Some people, determined to survive, will try to find some other way to optimize their chances of survival. Some would probably build self-sufficient communities deep beneath the earth. As our expiration day becomes nearer, governments would most probably collapse and money would become worthless. Society would have discovered a new set of rules.

I think as we get closer and as that sand of time runs out, it would be harder to enforce the rules. The world will sink into total chaos. But what we need to do as we see this asteroid approaching is to look for love; we need to appreciate and care for what we have. And for those people who have no one, we can generously look for that comfort they can have as time gradually ends. Finally, all people in the surface of the earth would wake up one and know that it is the last day of the world.

The book Comet/Asteroid Impacts and Human Society: An Interdisciplinary Approach illustrates the scenarios of what should we expect after an asteroid impact. As it impacts the earth, it would dig in the earth’s surface. There would be massive tidal waves and earthquakes, but the worst will be the gigantic clouds and debris that engulf the earth. The force is enough to trust a large quantity of earth crust into the atmosphere. Within a little as an hour, people on the opposite side of the planet will begin to feel the effects of the impact. Thousands of small portions of asteroid will shower down from the sky like a meteor shower. The following debris will soon burn up the upper atmosphere, creating a fire that will blanket the planet. If there are any survivors, they will emerge to find the pitchblack planet, covered by a thick layer of ash in the atmosphere and preventing most of the sunlight from getting through. Within several months, the sun will be completely blocked, and outside the environment will become totally uninhabitable. The sulfuric fire would drop the PH level to that of an alkaline battery, turning the earth into an inhospitable wasteland. Humans will not survive these conditions.

Nature

Another threat to us is hidden close to our home. In fact, do not look up. Look down, because what lies beneath could really rock your world. According to Dr. Horne, a specialist in Geo-hazard that “we exist to this planet purely by nature’s consent; if nature decides she’s had enough, we are out”. Many threats we face comes from above, however only one comes from below, and that is the infamous Super volcano. Many believe Earth is “solid ground” but in fact, beneath a thin layer of crust is a pressurized ocean of molten rock looking for a way out. Occasionally, it will find one.

According to Map Quest website, about 1021 miles away from the bay area lies the Yellowstone National Park, which is known for its super volcanoes. Supplying the heat that causes steam to erupt is a massive underground lake that has the potential to break out in massive amounts at any time. Such an eruption could render us extinct because it would be a global wide event.

Yellowstone is a super volcano that is part of a huge magma chain underneath located at Wyoming State. It has erupted in the past and histologists say that the next eruption is overdue. According to the article from Daily Science, Underground Hell, by Estheban Smith, Yellowstone experiences a super eruption about one in every 600,000 years but the last one was over 630,000 years ago. When it went off that time, almost a quarter of the earth was buried under 30 feet of ash and many species were decimated.

According to the same article from Daily Science, top scientists in the world have collaborated to come up with these following scenarios after an eruption. First, the explosion will incinerate everything within a certain radius, sending clouds of massive poisonous ash rising across the planes. It would take only an hour to cover a quarter of the United States. Definitely, there would be panic. Then, once the cloud hits, evacuation could be impossible. The drift of ash would be over 8 feet and heavier than snow. They also predicted it would be so thick that it will clog combustion engines, stranding rescuers. Almost immediately, all people outside will be suffocated by toxic sulfuric ash. People who stay indoors will discover that their house will provide them little protection. Those who manage to survive would have nowhere to go. Within weeks, the volcanic ash would immobilize the whole country. Planes would not be able to fly and trucks would not be fit to be driven to deliver food and medical supplies to the people. As a result, there would be financial instability, riots and panic. Within months, the temperature would begin to plummet as the sulfuric gas eruption spread around the planet. Gradually, the thick cloud of ash would block the solar energy from the sun. Eventually, the planet would be plunged into an Ice Age that would last for years. As a result, it would be extremely difficult to grow crops and the world would experience a global famine.

Humanity

We tend to blame nature for natural catastrophes and disasters, but in fact, we are our own worst enemy. We do far worse things than nature and the effects last longer than any natural disaster. Global warming, nuclear war, and supercomputers are presently the most immediate threat to humanity’s sruvival. The kind of destruction that we are reaping for ourselves is more predisposed to kill off humans sooner than anything nature does.

We live in a world where science fiction is becoming real life all the time. When many of us were growing up, computer chips and cell phones lived only in the imagination of writers and scientists. Now we cannot imagine life without them. Where will technology lead us? Will catering to our convenience be the death of us?

Man versus machine

Supercomputers as a reason for extinction may seem improbably but scientists say that it is entirely possible. They predict that computers can in principle emulate human intelligence and eventually improve on it. Man vs. Machines is a concept that has been a staple of popular culture in the modern era. The idea sells a lot of movie tickets but can machines really outsmart humans? In sounds like a joke, but some of the best scientists say that massive intelligent machines could actually threaten humanity in the future.

Nuclear threat

Another manmade tool of destruction is the nuclear bomb. Man now posses the power to generate the destructive power of a star. Mankind is literally taking a piece of a sun and placing it on earth in a neat package. The power that gives all energy in the universe is been replicated through nuclear bomb. It’s an amazing achievement but it carries a great potential of destruction. Can we control what we have created?

From the start it is clear that we cannot. In 1950’s the USSR and the United States built over 20,000 nuclear weapons. Today, it is the nuclear ambition of the terrorist group and the intention of India, Pakistan, Iran and North Korea seems to have the world’s tension. The Russia and U.S. still have thousands of nuclear weapons and many of them can be launched at anytime. According to research, the number of weapons the world has is equivalent of 80,000 Hiroshima bomb. The bomb in Hiroshima killed 100,000 people, if we have 80,000 of those we can kill 8 billion people and we only have 6 billion on the planet.

Climate

But the most alarming artificial threat to humanity is very evident nowadays; the infamous climate change or global warming. During Earth’s long history, the climate has changed many times. Our planet experienced events such as ice ages and long periods of warmth. In the past, natural factors such as volcanic eruptions and changes in amount of energy released from the Sun have altered the Earth’s climate. This is not a prophecy of doom but a wake up call to all of us.

A gas in our atmosphere known as carbon dioxide is the primary cause of global warming. What is so bad about carbon dioxide? The book Biology, Concept and Application sixth edition, explains how this gas affects the warming of our planet. It defines carbon dioxide as the most prevalent of our so-called greenhouse gasses. It traps the sunrays allowing only about 30% of the sun’s heat to escape back into space. Without this natural cozy blanket of carbon dioxide, most of the sun’s heat would escape and our planet would literally freeze over. On the other hand, if there is too much carbon dioxide, the atmosphere will absorb and accumulate heat until the earth will begin to resemble Venus, which has an average temperature 900 degree Fahrenheit.

By analyzing ancient arctic ice samples, scientists had been able to track both the temperature and carbon dioxide level going back thousands of years. It was found that whenever the carbon dioxide rose, the temperature rose as well.

Around the world, people are noticing sudden changes in their backyard and variance in the natural world that have climate experts concerned. We see springtime coming two weeks earlier, less snow in the mountains, heavy rainfall and we have already seen the sea level rise eight inches. The planet is changing before our very eyes, and this is going to have a big impact that we don’t understand yet but we can see it would be big.

For instance, according to the article of Jeffrey Klugger, “Global Warming heats up”, the average incidence of category 5 and 4 hurricanes have nearly doubled in the last 30 years and we are seeing more forest fires. Greenland is melting faster than normal and all this things are happen within the same time span. Adding it all up, scientists say that what we were seeing is the beginning of a planetary climate shift that has potentially adverse consequences for life on earth.

Another clear evidence about global warming is just happened last year. The first half of 2006 was the hottest ever recorded, and some scientists say that it is the result of excessive carbon dioxide content in the atmosphere. Because carbon dioxide is already in the air, it will only get hotter for at least several decades.

Global warming is a bad news for us but it will be more devastating for other creatures like penguins and polar bears whose habitat is literally melting away. New data shows that the Greenland and the west Antarctic ice sheet are melting faster than expected, and because these hold over a quadrillion gallons of water, it will cause a dramatic rise in the sea level.

The article “Global Warming heats” from CNN times further covers this concern. The approximation of the rise in the sea level is placed at 20 feet provided the Greenland ice sheet melts entirely. If the west Antarctic ice sheet collapses into the sea tha will result in another 20 feet rise in the sea level. If the global warming continues exponentially, a quarter of our planet’s land mass will be covered by water as early as the year 2100.

As global warming raises the sea level dramatically, the book Global Warming – Myths or Reality? by Marcel Lerux provides the possible scenarios of a world drowning in water. First, we will see mass migration. An estimated 1 billion people worldwide will be forced to travel inland. The remaining habitable land will ironically be gripped by another kind of water crisis. In the west, 75% of the drinkable water comes from snow pack. As a result of global warming, there will no more ice packs that we can depend on. With the planet’s fresh water in short supply, it is going to be difficult to grow crops leading to a worldwide food shortage igniting a new set of crisis. These crises will cause war, famine and drought; these, coupled with an unstable climate could push the death casualty into the billions. This would be at the level of disaster that the world has never seen.

Conclusion

It has been made clear that while nature is capable of wreaking havoc and massive destruction on the Earth and its inhabitants, such forces are beyond our control. When nature decides it is time to wipe out the human race from the face of the Earth, all our technology and knowledge is not likely to save us. However, that does not mean that we will not keep trying, and perhaps we will prevail before the forces of nature.

What is more important for people to realize is that there are some things that we can control now with certainty to ensure our own survival. This is our own propensity for self-destruction. Much of the potential for worldwide destruction has been created by humans, through the careless and wanton use of natural resources and through the invention of weapons of destruction that humans have created in the name of power and domination. The means to eliminate these threats are in our power if only we realize that it is in our best interests to act immediately before it is too late.

The choice is ours. We can choose between a modest warming and a radical warming. We can choose to blow ourselves up with nuclear bombs or use the technology to conserve our natural resources and ensure the future for our children. For the first time in the history, our generation now controls the destiny of the planet itself and unless we are not careful, our children and grandchildren will inherit only ashes and a ruined Earth. I think the greatest tragedy in the universe will be to realize that we may have enough intelligence and technology to save ourselves against a killer asteroid but not enough intelligence to save us from ourselves.

References

  1. Alok Jha “It’s called Apophis. It’s. And it could hit Earth in 31 years time” article from Guardian Unlimited, 2006.
  2. Cecie Starr, Biology, Concepts and Application, Sixth edition, 2006 Thomson Brooks/Cole Ch. 41.8
  3. Estheban Smith “Underground Hell” Daily Science, 1998 Vol. 171, No. 26
  4. G.R. Ricker, “Gamma-Ray Burst and Afterglow Astronomy” 2001, Massachusetts, 2001
  5. K. Lodders and B. Fegley, The Planetary Scientist’s Companion, , Oxford University Press, New York, 1998
  6. Jeffrey Kluger, “Global Warming Heats Up”, CNN times magazine, issue 2006.
  7. Marcel Leroux, Global Warming – Myth or Reality: The Erring Ways of Climatology, Springer Verlag; 2005
  8. Peter T. Bobrowsky, Comet/Asteroid Impacts and Human Society: An Interdisciplinary Approach (Hardcover) 1 edition (2006)
  9. Robert Roy Britt, “World’s Asteroid Hunters Make Political Plea to Save Earth” Senior Science Writer of Space.com posted: 07:00 am ET 2002.
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IvyPanda. "The Cause of Human Extinction: Nature’s Ferocity or People’s Irresponsibility?" September 12, 2021. https://ivypanda.com/essays/the-cause-of-human-extinction-natures-ferocity-or-peoples-irresponsibility/.

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IvyPanda. 2021. "The Cause of Human Extinction: Nature’s Ferocity or People’s Irresponsibility?" September 12, 2021. https://ivypanda.com/essays/the-cause-of-human-extinction-natures-ferocity-or-peoples-irresponsibility/.

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IvyPanda. (2021) 'The Cause of Human Extinction: Nature’s Ferocity or People’s Irresponsibility'. 12 September.

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