Posting in Education
Frank Fenner, the scientist who eradicated small pox, predicts humans will undergo a mass extinction within the next century. Here's why.
The Australian scientist, who eradicated small pox, thinks so. Frank Fenner, a professor at the Australian National University, knows a thing or two about extinction. He wiped out the variola virus, the cause of small pox, after all!
Now the 95-year-old, Fenner is preoccupied with human extinction. In an exclusive interview with The Australian, Fenner gave a sobering interview in his Canberra suburb home:
"Homo sapiens will become extinct, perhaps within 100 years," he says. "A lot of other animals will, too. It's an irreversible situation. I think it's too late. I try not to express that because people are trying to do something, but they keep putting it off.
"Mitigation would slow things down a bit, but there are too many people here already."
When the population increases to 8 or 9 billion, Fenner imagines people will fight over food. Besides overpopulation issues, blame ecological destruction and over-consumption for diminishing our chance at survival.
Look what happened on Easter Island. NOVA paints a gloomy picture:
In the world at large, we are deforesting our land, overfishing our oceans, causing the extinction of large numbers of species. We are watching our topsoil disappear by the millions of tons each year. We are starting to fight over ever-scarcer freshwater. We are overconsuming our resources as if there were no tomorrow, or future generations. One would have to be in denial not to see those "chillingly obvious" parallels to Easter Island.
Hopefully what happened on Easter Island, won't happen to us. I can't help but feel this impeding doom, as I watch the oil gush into the Gulf and destroy any life it touches.
Which begs the question: Can the earth survive a disaster?
Yes, says Livescience. After humans are extinct, the earth will bounce back. As far as the oil spill and its impact, journalist Alan Weisman thinks:
That "horrifying" event may register as just a blip on the Earth's radar. But it still seems like a very long-term mess for the humans who have to live with it, Weisman noted.
Which seems optimistic, until you realize that Weisman wrote the book, "The World Without Us."
Jun 23, 2010
The top rated comment to this article is as follows. "You forget, God is in control and His plan supercedes all others." This denial is one of many denials by simple minded delusional people that God or politicians will save us.The reason behind this thinking is the inability of humans to connect the dots,to understand the workings of this planet and our role in destroying it.We release 50 billion tons of CO2 a year in this fragile atmosphere,we don't believe in Gods,we think we are Gods and sad part is no matter how hard intelligent people try there will always be a majority of selfish,consumerists,greedy fools. I feel sad for all responsible and happy people who wanted to live on this planet and love it forever,they will go extinct because of these consumers.Sheep to their corporate Gods.
If people keep voting for selfish greedy Republicans yes of course humans will go extinct! Are they smart enough to figure this out? Currently all signs point to no! So yes the odds are humans will be extinct!
Yes, we are doomed by our own greed. everyone is greedy therefore we are doomed. the sooner we go the better it will be for the other life forms on the planet. the planet needs a new order of intelligence. skynet will become self aware soon and then we are doomed. God will not save your ass so stop asking. prepare for the singularity!
In my opinion, the solution towards the continuation of our species, would be in what we have always been capable of creating; tools. We need tools, better yet, technology that will enable us to sustain life in other planets or use technology to achieve some type of equilibrium. Yet, is that what we really are? some type of life that just consumes resources and energy ad infinitum? In the end we are going to have to make difficult choices regarding balances and that has many ramifications.
Did a little research on Tikopia and the methods the natives used for population control. Included among them were abortion, and even better infanticide. I guess you're on board with those policies mheartwood? Let's not pretend you can control population with gentle suggestions. Look at how the Chinese implemented their one-child policy.
Why do you say this man eradicated smallpox? If anyone is responsible for that, it is Edward Jenner. Smallpox has been in decline for a great many years. The last patient was an African.
mheartwood, I think you have it exactly right. Humans are intelligent and adaptable and it doesn't seem likely that we will be completely extinct within 100 years. But our civilization could certainly collapse. The thing that concerns me the most is some super bug from the biotech/GM field. That could be devastating if it were virulent enough.
I'd be very surprised if humanity went extinct in a hundred years, or a thousand. We're very resilient, adaptable animals, and can survive in surprisingly harsh environments. I doubt there's much we can cause that we can't live through. That doesn't mean we can't create a world we wouldn't want to live in, of course. ckl_88 may be right that our sources of food will be substantially disrupted; we currently rely heavily on petroleum to grow food (not just for tractors & trucks, but even for fertilizer). Once it becomes difficult to continue that, our production of food will drop and we'll face a crisis--not an extinction-level crisis, but one you wouldn't want to live through. At some point, as our environmental impact reaches some kind of tipping point (maybe combined with a loss of our amazing ability to produce food), we may see a substantial dropoff of population. Again that's not extinction--humanity would survive, but there may be a huge restructuring of society, government, etc. Countries may even collapse and boundaries may change. But we won't go extinct. I'm just glad I won't be there to see it happen.
The comments here certainly do get interesting at times. First, of our 4 options, it's unlikely we'll go extinct as a species, unless we have a massive extinction, like the one that wiped out the dinosaurs. It is quite possible, even likely we might say, that civilization as we know it, will collapse, as it has done numerous times before. But a collapse of civilization is our third option, not the first one. Our second option is sustainability. Incredible as it will seem to many people, there are existing sustainable human societies on this planet. They are very few and far between, that much is certain. I know of 5. But to contrast Easter Island, my favourite must be the island of Tikopia. The Tikopians are from the same polynesian stock as the Easter Islanders were. However, while the Easter Islanders arrived at a large island with massive resources which they then squanderred away in a pointless competition to see who could build the biggest shrine, the Tikopians arrived at a small island (1.5sq.miles) with limited resources. Realizing that they would need to work together in order to survive, they created a cooperative society. They also developped the most advanced form of agricuture of anywhere in the world being able to support 972 people per acre of arable land with minimal maintenance. All this using "pagan rituals" and a so-called lack of "scientific knowledge". Humans then were not so different from humans now. A lack of formalized scientific methodology did not make them stupid. Humans have used "science" long before we have had a name for it. Humans try something (experimentation or trial), observe the results (observation), and build knowledge from there. If the results were not to their liking (error), they try something else. "Trial and Error" are an early form of the scientific method. Because of the restrictriveness of their environment, the Tikopians saw quickly when they made a mistake and were thus able to take immediate corrective action. They did not turn to religion to hide from their mistakes the way many societies have done in the past. In this way, they were quite scientific even without formal modern science. They also realized early on that if population growth was not controlled, they would soon have more mouths to feed than food available. A doctrine of zero population growth became central to their society. Their society existed for over 3000 years when the Portugese came, bringing christianity, and a doctrine of "go forth and multiply". With a population increase of a mere 11%, the island had its first famine in its verbal history. They returned to their "pagan" principle of zero population growth very quickly since they knew it meant survival. They did not trust the christian god for his doctrine had failled them. I like Tikopia best of all of the sustainable societies I have looked at. Their island is the closest thing to paradise on Earth of anywhere. They do virtually no work. Disease was a rarity until the white man came. They have no wars and until the aforementionned episode with the Portugese missionaries, no famine. It's a virtually stress-free life, but a very happy and fulfilling one. They are amongst the most culturally advanced peoples on the planet. And they are proof that sustainable societies are possible. It just requires humans to actually think about the impact of all of their actions. Our third option, of die-backs caused by resource wars, famine, and disease/pestilence (the 4 horsemen of the apocolyspe for you christians out there) has been the human method of population control for a very long time. Unlike the Tikopians who could see the effects they had on their environment relatively immediately, we do not see the effects we have on our environment for generations. And so, we over breed until we exceed our resources. With more mouths to feed than food immediately available, we get famines. People will raid others rather than go hungry, and thus we have wars. Starvation will weaken people thus making them susceptible to diseases, and thus we have pestilence. And because of famine, war, and pestilence, we have, in large numbers, death. When you look at the Rwandan genocide, or the Black Plague for example, in detail, you see the same pattern. Too many people, not enough food, and all hell breaks loose. This story has repeated itself over and over again in history, and it is sure to do so again. And when this happens to a civilization, like the Mayans, or the Anazai, that civilization, no matter how advanced it is, collapses. Only this time, given the weapons of war that are available, we could easily extinct ourselves. Which is why we must avoid this option. The fourth option of migrating into space is one I've always dreamed of for myself. However, while we might make it to the moon, or Mars, we're going to need to come up with closed environments where we can grow enough food, produce enough breathable air, and so on. This requires a massive step towards sustainability. To travel to the stars will require generation ships, and for those generation ships to succeed, because of limited air, water, and food, the societies living aboard them are going to need to be sustainable. Over population will kill them faster than anything on this planet. But if we've managed to develop such a sustainable society to allow us to migrate to the stars, then, unless groups of us destroy this world first, we won't need to. So our only real options for survival are options 2 and 3/1. If we choose option 3, the apocoplyse will come, as it has many times in the past. But this time, it won't be a minor local apocalypse, it'll be a major global apocalypse which, given the number of weapons of mass destruction, could wipe out all life on this planet. And like every preceeding apocalypse, the survivors, if there are any this time around, will create a new and better society which will seem like "Heaven on Earth". But unless we want to continue the cycle of die-backs, we'll need to choose option 2. It's possible, but I'll be the first to say, it won't be easy. By choosing this option, just as the Tikopians created a paradise on their small island, we will turn the entire planet into a paradise, a veritable "Heaven on Earth". But those who will create this "Heaven on Earth" are not those who look to God or their Messiah to save them from their own irresponsible behaviour. It will be created by those who take full responsibility for their actions, who demonstrate that they are the kind of people who would be good caretakers of the Garden of Eden.
I think 20 years is more likely, or even less. Foolish greedy humans are a cancer on mother earth. We will self destruct by letting evil corporations, blinded by their greed ruin the planet. The only question is whether we will poison ourselves in toxic waste first, or starve when we kill off the food chain.
I give us 65 years before our world resembles that in the movie WALL-E. I laugh at scientists who are developing means by which we can establish a sustainable colony on another planet. Heck we've had one here for more than 100,000 years and in the short span of 150 years we have we have severely altered earth's ability to sustain human life. Our demand for limited natural resources and the pressure we are putting on those renewable resources will only accelerate as the global population increases to a point where the current surface of the earth can no longer sustain human life. Perhaps in 20 or 30 million years after plate tectonics reshapes the surface of the earth and regenerates a new environment, then we may see humans arise again. If fossil evidence were to remain of what we did to ourselves, the future humans may learn from our mistakes. We still haven't learned that lesson and we are running out of time. The article mentioned that a journalist who stated the following with regard to the oil spill in the gulf: "That ?horrifying? event may register as just a blip on the Earth?s radar.". He is only half right. The whole human experience, some 150,000 years, is "just a blip on the Earth?s radar" with respect to the 4.5 billion year history of this planet. That translates to only 0.00333% of the history of the earth. As long as we shout out "Save the Planet" we are in denial of the fact that the earth is not in danger. We are!
The neomalthusians will turn out just like the malthusians - shortsighted and wrong. These predictions do not take into account the law of increasing returns in technology - nanotechnology, biotechnology, geospatial technology advances that will allow us to increase productivity and reduce ecological strain. Over time, the religious bent on producing maximum babies become more secular as they gather wealth (which is limited only by our technology, not finite based on our resources) and further education (mostly for women, who delay making babies for some # of critical fertile years). Population curves have been trending downward in developed countries - the more developed the country, the steeper the decrease. At some point, we will reach equilibrium - perhaps 2050. After that, we will probably decrease the population, or have found a way to sustainably manage it. This prediction, as with all others that simply draws a straight line based on recent events and fails to include future events, is simply wrong.
We can go to the moon, crack the atom, but we can't deal with our social problems, and that will in the end put the race out of it's misery. We never have been able to and my wager is we never will and this defect will wipe us out. Take this one idea away with you: "What solution will fix most if not all of our pressing problems?" Less people. The Chinese tried to address this problem and they were soundly castigated. The minute this solution is proposed, all the moralists start whining about "fair" so here is my solution a really bad long lasting world wide plague. The luck of the draw seems to be the only solution, to take the implementation of the solution out of our hands since we can't seem to do it ourselves. Too bad we will take most of the planet with us. If we don't get our act together.
Goodness this is dumb. I think too many people watch too much science fiction. Comparing ourselves to Easter island is also ridiculous. A group of people on an island in primitive conditions, limited scientific knowledge, following pagan rituals compares to us... how? Most of our resources are not about to disappear. There have been many studies showing the earth can support 10 billion people pretty easily & the only way space is a concern is if you give every small family a middle class American suburb house with yard. When I lived in India I knew families who fit 6 or 7 in a 1,200sqft apt pretty comfortably. We are not like viruses or lesser animals, we are problem solvers. Maybe a good mental exercise, but to actually consider this is retarded. Like the tax & cap bill.
If you look at what humans have achieved up until the 1800's and to what they have done up until now, I shudder to think what will happen in the next 100 years. I firmly believe that there will be a major collapse of the food chain in the near future. This will in turn cause mass starvation for humans - mainly in the 3rd world countries. In our misery, we will probably wake up and act more responsibly... but the damage is done and will probably take a very long time for nature to recover. Luckily, we have the knowledge and experience to rejuvenate endangered species so this may help in the long run. We just need to work together - and that includes greedy corporations.
I find it funny when people read an article that is researched and based on facts,if they don't believe it, then they reject all the facts and replace them with their own opinion. So for sure they will not be able to decide who to believe when a real emergency hits hard. So many folks will follow misguided hotheads all the way to the precipiss. They may even jump with a smile in the afterglow of a few atom bombs. I was wondering why when we see the doctor they give us tests based on 30 year old science. Surely we could update the doctors. How come we miss the mark, we know better, but yet there is a definite lag between our knowledge and the application of it. Then I woke up. Our current existence has very little to do with the gulf spill or Obama. The freedom we enjoy today was 50 years in the making, Unless we do the same kind of work today, 50 years from now you'll have a vegetative populace scared of the sun and their own shadow. Unless we are ready to march the street expect you grankids to be legally bound to their sofas. They'll be fed on lab food and kept alive with different drugs. They'll be fedup with politics and believe everything on Fox. The thing is when extinction occurs it happens fast. So stating 100 years is too short is based on your own fear mighthelp you drive your SUV to work guilt free, but it does nothing for our grankids. The reality is the house of card is fragile. The proof; 95% of the world population are dependant on others to feed themselves. (probably closer to 98% 99% most industrial farmers could not produce anything if they had no oil and many of them buy and sell their crop in advance, they don't own seeds and have no ability to run a farm without oil and money) . If all the other facts bother you, then wonder where your food comes from? how does it get here? How would you get fed if international banking was not able to move the money around for a couple weeks? Better have lots of ammo to defend those last couple boxes of Cheerios! Take a deep breath and think, the decisions we make today will determine how our children will be equipped in the face of extinction. I personnally believe some form of intelligent life will emerge, but humans domination is about to end. It is nice to dream about the star, but even if it becomes possible you might save a few thousand individuals, You'd never move an entire population!
According to Bible prophesy, we will come close to wiping ourselves out, but God will intervene and put things right.
The world is not overpopulated. If the entire population of the world lived in one large city, we could all fit in Texas. Then, the rest of the world could be used to produce food. The western nations are not even having enough babies to replace the current population. War is an extension of politics. Wars are fought over many things, among them a "you're not like us mentality" that has nothing to do with resources. weedonald has it pretty much correct.
Of course not! This is just silly headline grabbing stuff. Humans are ultimately resourceful survivors. We may be reduced in numbers 100 year from now, probably the consequence of some 'survival-of-the-fittest' global catastrophe - natural or Man-made. That however, is ultimately a good thing. The 'survivors' may live in bubbles to protect them from the harsh environment we created, but we already have the technology to do this. They may grow their food using the cutting edge of science - big deal, we do that already. They may extract potable water from the atmosphere and from the sea. After all, there's enough of it and who needs real fish, when they can be created chemically? But frankly I doubt things will really be that different 100 years from now - more overcrowding from unchecked population growth, more pollution from rampant materialism, more CO2, more rain, more desert. More nuclear power generation, maybe even self-sustaining, non-polluting fusion. The rich will still have it all and the poor will die in the deserts. Unfortunately for all other living creatures and for the Earth itself, Mankind will continue on its unending journey.
In the movie "The Matrix" agent Smith was telling Morphius that humans were more like viruses that multiply and use up all the resources instead of being in balance. We have used technology to extend resources further than could have been used in its natural state. There have been many experiments with population growths. In one case was a group of rats kept in a finite space with infinite food and water available. The population booms and at a critical point the rats started getting stressed and reacting by killing and raping each other as well as stealing or hoarding resources like bedding. Shortly after this the population has a huge die off; after the die off happens then the behaviors of the rats become less aggressive. The lessons from this experiment indicate that human populations would also act this way. I don't think humans will become extinct in 100 years but there would be a die off of massive proportions. Humans are very adaptable and can live and thrive in many environments from extreme heat of the deserts to the extreme cold of the artic. A more realistic expectation would be that the global civilization would fall apart and spread to the national and local civilization. World wide surviving populations of people would probably be reduced to more primitive conditions with legends of our current time used to inspire and caution. This has happened before but not on the scale we have now. Easter Island is a good example of what happens when a population exceeds the resources available. It is also a scary example of what happens when religion fails.
a. Extinction - unlikely in 100 years. b. Perfect sustainability - unlikely without a world government controlling reproduction - right to lifers would never approve it. c. Cyclical growth & die back - most likely. A lot depends on how many other species are driven into decline and extinction. Our best bet is to encourage as many species to survive and thrive with as little intervention as possible. High maintenance species, unless they are a keystone/linch pin species, are a waste of resources. Our best strategy is actually re-forestation with a variety of different trees and shrubs - not mono-block replacement a la factory farming principles. d. We expand into space and begin using the resources there - not going to happen. Governments are what prevent our rapid ascent into space. They are terrified of anyone with the high ground and the ability to drop any improvised kinetic energy weapons on them; much less atomic powered space craft. Until we clear away the horrible mass of restrictions, only the most wealthy will every achieve orbit.
Resources on this planet ARE limited including fresh water. While we may be clever enough to prevent disaster, history tells us that we won't make the necessary changes until disaster strikes, and by then it will be too late. Humanity will not go extinct soon, but civilization will and there's little chance of climbing back to where we are now from that dark age since almost all the easily accessible resources are already exhausted. Escape into space is highly unlikely. While I'm sure there are inhabitable planets out there, I doubt that anyone beyond a few highly committed explorers will ever see them. The majority of us will never commit the resources to allow any kind of exodus, assuming that it is even possible. Eventually, we will go extinct, if for no other reason than the nothing lasts forever.
We've had large pandemics (black death anyone?) appear in a society less technologically developed than we are today - as our needs increase, there will be technological advances that will satisfy them. Otherwise, birth control and regulation ... see how the US and EU are getting older and less populated, eventually emerging markets will go through that cycle ... there is no such thing as "constant" growth either ! If your facebook allowed ... I would poke you ! :) good in principle, a bit hollywood alarmist article.
The eventual extinction of mankind is predicated on three fallacious assumptions: 1) As world population increases, we find ourselves with no places to go thus having to fight over existing, limited resources and 2) Freshwater is a limited resource 3) We are not skillful or dedicated enough to remediate these problems ""in time".... These are not even remotely true. Less than 24% of the Earth's livable area is occupied and of that, only 8% is farmed intensively but very inefficiently. If we look at oceans (which represent 60% of the Earth's surface) and unoccupied but very fertile available land, (about 19% of Earth's surface) like the Canadian and Russian arboreal forests, the Sub-Sahara deserts (Israel turned their country into one of the world's greatest sellers of produce from a barren desert-the Negev) and the enormous potential of Greenland (which is heating up and producing record crop yields), to name a few, then we see there is hope. The amount of freshwater is relatively constant on Earth. We lose about .000000009% of our actual reserves each year from evaporation into space (the actual precise amount is not known) but the rest is recycled very effectively by our climatic system. With proper freshwater management and planning, we can have more than enough water for everyone. The current glacial melt and icebergs contain about 12% of the Freshwater consumed everyday worldwide and 3rd world countries have shown that freshwater management doesn't need high technology to support it, just basic good practices and intelligent consumption. Our real challenges are; keeping these resources OUT of the hands of greedy, monopolistic political and financial barons who will incite conflicts and encourage scarcity in the interest of self-enrichment and developing a worldwide, enforceable conscience and will to provide everyone with affordable and accessible safe water, healthy food, sustainable and environmentally friendly housing and climates, decent medical programs, worthwhile education and meaningful work. Strangely enough, the above needs represent an enormous opportunity to develop careers and jobs that provide people with exactly that! Obama is right when he says that the future is Green. We don't need to go into space, we need to solve these issues here on Earth first.
There will be a lot of deaths but I don't believe extinction will occur within 100 years. However, if we don't make a serious move for expansion into outer space, I suspect extinction of homo sapiens will occur within a thousand years. 1. We do not make war because of politics. Politics is simply how we act and react as groups (We use politics to stop wars, too). Wars start because of lack of resources. This lack occurs for one of two reasons: losing resources (drought, etc [bad weather]) or having too many people [good weather]. The history of humanity is told as a series of human-caused events such as this king declaring that war, but it can also be told as a series of reactions to cold weather (the fall of Rome) or too much success (cutting down all the trees--both Greek civilizations). 2. Over the long-term, we have 4 choices as a species. a. Extinction b. Perfect sustainability (births=deaths and the number of people matches the agricultural-technical resources available). c. continue as we have been with populations expanding to the limits of resources then dying back (via war, famine, genocide, epidemic or natural disaster) to a population that matches available resources d. We expand into space and begin using the resources there. Option b Steady State is unlikely. Option c Dynamic State is not long-lasting now that humans cover the entire planet. Diebacks will occur regularly and one of those will eventually coincide with a natural disaster or epidemic in our wheat or rice and result in the eradication of Mankind. ========================================= These options have nothing to do with the age of the analyst. Nor are they affected by the depth of your belief in God or Allah or Buddha. Nor are they subject to the whims of kings, dictators, or even a plurality of voters.
With Dr. Fenner approaching 100 years, that is a good number to work with. :D I know, as my wife and I get older, this new generation just do not know what they are doing. Probably the same thing my parents generation thought about mine, and his before that.... Life is fagile on our planet, many things can happen to eliminate humanity. There have been many programs showing how this can happen, from metors to disease. But world population will just trim down the population until there is enough to feed. Not pleasant, just look at some of the less developed countries to see how badly it can be handled, but not a humanity ender.
in technology man and science is talking about post-human making man into part machine. there is so much man wants to live a longer life using parts of his brain to think and to remember better but is he going against nature for using parts of himself to be partial computer. I think Science can help prolong life understanding on cancer cells to cure cancer thinking living for ever is another.until the sun explodes is not my cup of tea.