History teaches us that each generation learns next to nothing from the previous one. Humanity seems condemned to repeat its mistakes endlessly. Modern humans walked out of Africa around 120,000 years ago and all we have done since that time is overexploit the Earth’s wildlife and resources, wage war and exterminate whoever or whatever stood in our way – we did it then and we are still doing it now. This notwithstanding, we ironically call our species Homo Sapiens. This is Latin for ‘Wise Man’ (and Woman). I kid you not. We have indeed called our species the Wise People.
This article speaks to the elders in our society, the grandparents.
We have all tried to bring up our children in the best way we know how and to pass on the good values and principles on which we base our own behaviour. Science tells us that we need not be too concerned as to whether we have done a good job of this or not as children are apparently largely influenced by the non-family members they spend time with and only marginally by their parents. Be this as it may, we shall now speak and they must listen. Our planet has a problem that we have caused. We have an obligation to get involved to solve it.
The world has entered its darkest of epochs. We are in the midst of a mass extinction of life on Earth. This is the sixth mass extinction in the 450 million years since life appeared on our planet. The last mass extinction was 66 million years ago when a huge meteor hit the Yucatan Peninsula located in what is today known as the Gulf of Mexico. The impact and the ensuing global warming, pollution and extreme weather conditions caused by this meteor hitting Earth, killed 76% of all wildlife, animals and plants – this is the extinction event that wiped out the dinosaurs.
This sixth mass extinction happening now is different to the previous five in that it is not being caused by cataclysmic events such as a meteor hit or volcanic eruptions. It is caused entirely by human activity. We need to be aware that we humans are also biological creatures, like plants and animals, and will most likely not survive a global mass extinction.
The overexploitation of the Earth’s wildlife and habitats took a bad turn at the start of the industrial revolution in the second half of the 18th century, an odd 250 years ago. Since the 1950s we have witnessed an acceleration in the degradation of the planet’s ecosystems caused by human activity, the very ecosystems that provide us with the clean air, water and food we need to live.
Above: Bushfires in Australia caused by global warming, 2019-20, killed up to one billion animals
People have killed 60% of all animals on Earth since 1970 and burnt or cut down half the forests on the planet in the last 100 years. It is predicted that by 2050 there will no longer be any viable fish populations in the seas and oceans. The warming of the atmosphere and oceans, caused by toxic greenhouse gas emissions, has reached such high levels that unless we stop burning fossil fuels by 2030 it is certain that future generations will have to face irreversible extreme weather conditions as well as unprecedented scorching heat, freezing cold, drought, flooding and cyclones. Millions of homeless desperate people will be marching across the globe. Our children and grandchildren will witness the end of civilisation and anarchy will rule.
The scientific institutes of the United Nations are warning us. Politicians are doing nothing or not enough and people are largely in denial. So, my friends, do not rest easy as the Earth needs you.
Published in the Times of Malta – Senior Times, on the 24th January 2020