This podcast show explores the craven distinction of humanity’s impending extinction. The source material for this show is largely drawn from my Spokes of the Wheel books The Fruits of Civilization, The Elements of Evolution, The Pathos of Politics, and The Echoes of the Mind.
A mass extinction event indiscriminately wipes out many species. There have been innumerable minor mass extinction events in Earth’s past, where large sectors of life ran into lethal bad luck. Causes varied, from intolerable climate to invasive species. Volcanoes were often involved, as the deep Earth responded to significant thermal changes in the oceans, which is the great heat sink on the surface. The current mass extinction event will increasingly provoke volcanism; a dynamic which has yet barely started.
There have been 10 major mass extinction events in Earth’s geological history. (The popular count of 5 is inaccurate.) The first major mass extinction event was nearly 2.5 billion years ago, when marine bacteria pumped oxygen into the sea and air, killing other microbes who couldn’t take the gas we now vitally breathe.
The last major mass extinction event was 66 million years ago; the culmination happening when a 9-kilometer diameter meteorite smacked into Mexico’s Yucatán peninsula. The collision produced the most powerful earthquake of all time, releasing energy equivalent to a billion atomic bombs, heating the atmosphere into an incandescent furnace. Impact shock waves coursed through the Earth, catalyzing massive floods of basalt and volcanic eruptions on the other side of the planet.
The bolide’s aftermath doomed big dinosaurs. But the little ones survived, in the form of birds.
The most severe mass extinction event was the Great Dying, 252 million years ago. A series of extinction pulses involving invasive species and volcanoes decimated life on Earth. The mass extinction event underway now may resemble the Great Dying, which featured the only mass extinction of insects, and a profound downer to plants.
The invasive species responsible for this mass extinction event is, of course, humanity. It is the doom of dumb animals, who couldn’t see their own self-made extinction coming for a century before it was too late, and, when finally alerted, did practically nothing to save themselves.
The only reason that man’s mass extinction event may be less damning than the Great Dying is that the pollutants can be cleansed geologically, and the warming ameliorated within a few million years. Earth is naturally cool, and so the hothouse created by men can naturally correct with time. Of course, people will be long gone by the time Earth recovers to support the next dominant animal, which will be birds – the return of the dinosaurs.
Through optimism, greed, and ignorance, mankind forged its own extinction. Women had practically no say in this fate, as political subjugation of the superior sex arose worldwide with the advent of agriculture as the dominant lifestyle, beginning some 12,000 years ago.
It is shocking that people are only now becoming aware that humanity has but a very few decades before billions will die from the pollution which characterizes industrialization, and which has produced the mass extinction event gathering pace.
The dynamic that spells our doom has been obvious to wise men for millennia. Yet political leaders paid them no heed, preferring instead petty cloying for power.
Today, nothing effective has been or is being done. Political plutocrats pretend that mere adjustments may be needed decades from now.
Lying by elected political leaders is more blatant now in the technologically advanced misinformation age than any reasonable person could possibly imagine. What that clearly indicates is that democracy has failed: that letting gullible fools punch election ballots has insufferable consequences which humanity can ill afford.
Though they have marshaled massive databases of facts which make clear that time is rapidly running out, scientists have been surprisingly reserved in raising the alarm about the costs of capitalism. This century, climatologists have repeatedly found that their models were too conservative; that climate change has been and continues to accelerate faster than forecast. Climate model miscasting owes to a lack of understanding and failure to include critical contributors to climate change.
That habitats are deteriorating throughout much of the world is increasingly obvious. The most pressing problem in many places is lack of clean water. One quarter of the world’s human population in 17 countries now faces water supply shortages. 12 of those countries are in the Middle East and North Africa.
Along with Pakistan, India is at the forefront of running out of potable water. India currently has 1.33 billion people. Already 200,000 die each year from thirst or drinking dirty water. 600 million face acute water shortages in major cities. Another 21 large Indian cities will run out of groundwater within the next year, desiccating a further 100 million people unto death.
India long depleted its groundwater and polluted its other water sources. The same casual fouling of precious water supplies is universal.
India is just marginally ahead of others in drying out. Northern China has long had scant water supply and will become parched of potable water within the next decade. For several decades, China has been building vast, environmentally destructive projects to keep the north supplied with water. Meantime, the government did next to nothing to keep what little water they had clean.
Much of the United States has had abundant water supplies. In the last century, industrialists successfully polluted most of the American waters so badly that very little of it remains pure enough to safely drink. The water is fouled with chemicals which are not removed by municipal water treatments.
Sympathetic to corporate rapists of Nature, Republicans have encouraged pollution of all kinds, including making the water undrinkable. President George W. Bush let the fracking oil industry pollute groundwater supplies at no cost to them.
President Donald Trump is doing everything in his considerable power to accelerate the destruction of America by letting corporations pilfer at will. Trump refuses to enforce any laws safeguarding environmental quality and has eliminated all environmental protections which he can.
American Republicans are just the culmination of a trend which is occurring in many countries. Jair Bolsonaro, the right-wing leader of Brazil, is promoting the destruction of the vast Amazon rainforest.
Worldwide, political leadership is failing, and even worsening the climate crisis at a time when time has run out.
Next, a historical perspective on engines of extinction.