It is not mere fantastical speculation or dooms day conspiracy mumbo-jumbo to suggest the very possibility we are facing, not only the extinction of our species, but every other species of life on this planet. The evidence, despite the aggressive effort of planet-killing corporate entities in conjunction with our corrupted politicians and media to have us believe otherwise, points glaringly and alarmingly towards global catastrophe. We inherited Eden and are turning it, with frightening proliferation, into Hell.
The Cambridge Project for existential risk states that the "greatest threats" to the human species are man-made; they are artificial intelligence, global warming, nuclear war and rogue biotechnology. In a nutshell, we are most likely to be the harbingers of our own destruction. What a legacy that will be in the vastness of time. A species so incapable of working together through their own fears and anxieties, so incapable of overcoming their individual gluttony and collective greed, so incapable of altering their blind stupidity into one of wisdom, so unwilling to turn their unending cycle of anger and hate into peace and compassion, they eventually annihilated themselves and the entire planet they existed on. Not really going to be a legitimate contender for "Intergalactic Time Magazine Species of the Nano-Second" are we?
Whether you subscribe to the man-made global warning phenomenon or not, it does not take a genius to come to the realisation that we are having a serious negative impact, even disregarding the rising carbon dioxide levels, on our planet.
Over-fishing has resulted in 1/3 of the world's fisheries becoming severely depleted.
We now have less than half of the forests left that formerly covered the Earth.
It is estimated 1 billion people are in serious threat of desertification (the process of areas of dry land becoming void of vegetation and wildlife), with 20% of land already succumbed.
The Western honeybee, vital for pollination, is now declining rapidly, at twice the rate prior to 2007. According to some theories, we are at present entering the Holocene extinction, sometimes called the Sixth extinction, and the name proposed to describe the ongoing extinction event of species due to human activity. That figure is believed to be as high as 140,000 a year.
Even freshwater, accounting for less than 1% of all water, is under threat. It is estimated that by 2025, 2/3 of the world's population will be "under stress conditions", with regards to freshwater availability.
I have only touched on some of the most urgent aspects of the sustained war we are raging with the planet. I know that we in the West have a particularly destructive habit of declaring war on things we don't like (see war on drugs, war on terror, etc), but to enact a war of aggression on our own eco system is clearly insane.
"Never underestimate the power of human stupidity". - Robert A. Heinlein
Of course, we might avoid the long, protracted, slow death of ecological disaster. Instead, we might realise human extinction in an instant. There are an estimated 17,000 nuclear weapons in existence worldwide. The US nuclear attack on Japan killed 200,000. If we take that as 100,000 per bomb, that's a total killing potential of 1.7 billion. Or 1 in 4 people. That, however, was the killing capacity of a 1945 bomb. Yields and explosive capabilities have increased significantly in 70 years. Any poor sods who do survive would have to eek out a relatively short but bleak existence, trying to survive the murderous warlords and their rampaging death cults, or fighting off giant cockroaches for the scraps of some irradiated dog meat, whilst simultaneously watching the sun fade forever from the skies, leaving permanent darkness and a painful death of everything.
If we do somehow stave off both ecological and nuclear disaster, we may have an equally horrifying scenario in store for us instead. In 2009, experts attended a conference hosted by the Association for the Advancement of Artificial Intelligence (AAAI) to discuss whether computers and robots might be able to acquire any sort of autonomy, and how much these abilities might pose a threat or hazard. They noted that some robots have already acquired various forms of semi-autonomy, including being able to find power sources on their own and being able to independently choose targets to attack with weapons. They also noted that some computer viruses can evade elimination and have achieved "cockroach intelligence". So, in place of fighting mutant cockroaches, we will be instead hunted down and terminated by robot ones.
We have already seen the devastation that the AIDS virus has had worldwide, not to mention the deadly Ebola virus in Western Africa. The consequences of a man-made virus unleashed upon an increasingly connected world could be catastrophic. According to Nick Bostrom, a Swedish philosopher at the University of Oxford, given current development, more risk from novel, engineered pathogens is to be expected in the future.
There are plenty of possible non-anthropogenic extinction events on the horizon; Asteroids, Mega-tsunamis, Super-volcanoes, Extra-terrestrial invasion. The risk from these "acts of God" cannot be eradicated, but man-made disasters, well, the name kind of gives it away. It is nothing less than tragic. I often wonder what an intelligent sentient being might think if he looked down on our planet and saw what was unfolding. I imagine it would be thoughts of horror and disbelief. I imagine his question to us would simply be, "why?"
Some might point to the follies of man; his greed, his ignorance, his lack of empathy.
Others might point to the controlling powers of the world screwing it up for the rest of us.
Whatever the reason, the facts are there to be seen.
We can continue burying our head in the sand (after all, we may have a whole lot more of it soon), or we can come to terms with our current reality, fight past our fears and act now before it really is too late, and we do instigate our own demise.
This is my humble plea to the rest of humanity to wake up before we, ultimately, destroy ourselves, and this precious cradle of life we inhabit.
A concerned denizen of Earth.