Science tells us, that in our current stage of evolution and development, we have been around for approximately 200,000 years.
Some would argue that this is a very long time, but in the grand scheme of things, its really not. When you consider that our latest scientific studies put the age of our planet at approximately 4,500,000,000 years, we really are just a (rather toxic) drop in the ocean. An article flowingdata.com puts that information into a format that is easier to understand, by way of a 24-hour clock.
Over a period of a 24 hours, there are 1,440 minutes. In 1,440 minutes, there are 86,400 seconds. The clock puts humans at 77 seconds of existence in that overall time-line. That’s just a period of existence that is just 0.09% of the overall history of earth. We are so insignificant in comparison to the existence of some species, such as jellyfish, who have been here for 192 minutes, or 11,520 seconds, or 13.33% of the time earth has existed. We are the newcomers, and we are already facing the possibility that we could wipe ourselves out within the coming millennia, or even sooner.
Professor Frank Fenner, the man who played a significant role in eradicating the variola virus that causes smallpox, predicted that the human race could well be extinct within 100 years. Fenner said that whatever we do now, it’s too late. He said that already, there are far too many of us here. As I write this article, the population clock at census.gov puts the figure at 7,259,677,260.
When Frank Fenner died in November of 2011, that figure was 6,992,106,558. So in a little under 4 years, we’ve gotten ourselves another 267,500,000 people on this earth. That’s more than 4 times the current population figure of the United Kingdom. With that figure only set to increase exponentially over the coming years, is it too late to do anything about the effects this growth brings?
A larger population means a larger rate of consumption. Larger rates of consumption lead the way for greater disparities in the distributions of wealth. Greater disparities in the distribution of wealth, results in increased numbers of people falling ill, spreading disease, and people living in poverty. These are issues that we have faced for thousands of years already, and we’ve already seen that as a species, we’re not doing enough about it. Our global attitudes – at least the attitudes of those who are in a position to make real, beneficial and positive change – just aren’t geared toward the survival and preservation of our environment. Some would argue that that isn’t the case, but in truth, the evidence speaks for itself. We have been warned of global warming for many decades, and even with that, we are still only just at the cusp of the human race actually accepting that reality, let alone bringing about change.
The United Nations Environment Programme of 2010, told us that a global shift towards a vegan diet is vital to save the world from hunger, fuel poverty and the worst impacts of climate change. Is the world vegan now? Are we showing even a shed of evidence that we’ve taken this information seriously? The report outlined that at our current rates of consumption, the effects of production, transportation, and waste will have devastating effects on our planet. We are literally digging our own graves, armed with all the information of what we could do to save ourselves, and yet we’re led to believe that foreign policy, immigration, ISIS and X-Factor are what we should be informed about. It doesn’t make any sense.
Our own blinkered ignorance is what is leading us along this slippery slope to extinction. All of the information, all the answers, all the means of solution are right there, for us to act upon, or to research further, and yet here we are.
With that (rather grim) reality, the question I asked at the beginning, carries even more weight. Should we just accept that we’re not supposed to be permanent residents of this planet? Earth has been around far longer than we have been. Before there were humans, the earth did it’s thing, and just was; and when we’re gone, the earth will still be here (unless we manage to destroy it completely – but even if we did, it would still be here in some form). Perhaps humans are the living the ultimate irony. Perhaps we are the earth’s equivalent of cancer. We came to be, upon to the earth – some would even argue that we came to be from the earth – we exist here for a time, before either we kill ourselves off, or the earth kills us off with it’s reactionary moves.
Is it so wrong to consider that we could just be here for a fleeting moment, and that we could well be on our way to becoming just another historical artefact, found and discarded by the next players in the game? If we are headed for the closing chapter, could we just put aside the petty differences found upon ignorance, and perpetuated by those set to make a gain?