Not many of us like to think about the eventual end of humanity’s time on Earth, and most don’t give it any thought at all since it doesn’t seem like something that will happen in our lifetimes. However, scientists are now saying that our time on the planet might be coming to an end sooner than expected. A similar claim was made back in 1992 with 1,500 scientists, but now it’s swelled up to more than 15,000 issuing a warning.
Scientists from more than 180 countries took part in the movement known as Scientists Warning To Humanity. The campaign was started by William Ripple of the Oregon State University College of Forestry, and scientists have been signing on in droves. Looking at the claims that were first made in 1992, Ripple has said that the fundamental changes that were suggested then still need a lot of work now.
The original document said that “a great change in our stewardship of the Earth and the life on it is required, if vast human misery is to be avoided.” The main talking points said that Earth is facing a crisis due to “ozone depletion, freshwater availability, marine life depletion, ocean dead zones, forest loss, biodiversity destruction, climate change and continued human population growth.”
Looking back on the suggestions that were made, Ripple pointed out that the only one that has been improved over time is stabilizing the ozone layer. Outside of that, though, humans have been letting problems continue to get worse, and he warns that burning fossil fuels, massive farming and deforestation are to blame for many problems. “Moreover, we have unleashed a mass extinction event,” Ripple noted. “The sixth in roughly 540 million years, wherein many current life forms could be annihilated or at least committed to extinction by the end of this century.”
Since 1992, the human population has continued to climb at a nearly linear rate, while temperatures continue to rise, livestock can’t be produced at the same rate as human population growth, there are more CO2 emissions and fewer areas of forest around the world. So what can humans do to fix these problems from potentially ending humanity?
Ripple says that there are a few key points, which include “prioritizing the enactment of connected well-funded and well-managed reserves for a significant proportion of the world’s terrestrial, marine, freshwater and aerial habitats.”
He added that putting an end to deforestation, restoring large plant communities and forests, rewilding regions with native species, halting trade of threatened species, reducing food waste, developing a plant-based diet, reducing fertility rates, educating youth about nature, spending more on climate education, reducing fossil fuels, reducing taxes on energy efficiency and controlling the population altogether should do the trick. It won’t be easy to get everybody on board, but it’s something that Ripple says must be done.
“Soon it will be too late to shift course away from our failing trajectory, and time is running out,” he said. “We must recognize, in our day-to-day lives and in our governing institutions, the Earth with all its life is our only home.”
He added that “Humanity is now being given a second notice…We are jeopardizing our future by not reining in our intense but geographically uneven material consumption and by not perceiving continued rapid population growth as a primary driver behind many ecological and even societal threats.”
Study co-author Eileen Crist of the Virginia Tech Department of Science and Technology agreed with population being the most significant problem. “The rapid rise of the global middle class, which is now more than three billion people in the world and it’s expected, by 2050 or so, to rise to five billion people…The chief concern isn’t really the human numbers as such. It’s the impact we have.”
She added that the rising consumption from this group is harmful. “We are in the throes of a mass extinction event that is anthropogenic,” she said. “This is not something we can fix. If we lose 50 to 75 percent of the species on the planet in this century – which is what scientists are telling us what will occur if we continue to operate as business-as-usual – if this happens, this can not be fixed.”
The massive attention that the new document has received is more than 10 times of that from the 1992 warning. “Those who signed this second warning aren’t just raising a false alarm,” Ripple said. “They are acknowledging the obvious signs that we are heading down an unsustainable path. We are hoping that our paper will ignite a widespread public debate about the global environment and climate.” It’s certainly opened a lot of eyes, and the frightening warning could prompt some changes across the globe.0 x 0.025