Why Is Near Term Human Extinction Inevitable?
By Robert J. Burrowes
17 October, 2014
If you hadn't previously heard the expression 'near term human
extinction', you have now. And you will get used to hearing it soon
unless you insulate yourself from reality with greater effectiveness
than you are doing by reading this article.
The expression 'near term human extinction' is relatively new in the
scientific literature but, unlike other truths that have been
successfully suppressed by national elites and their corporate media,
this one will keep filtering out until you start to hear the expression
routinely. Why? Because this truth is simply too big to suppress
permanently and the planetary environment delivers its feedback directly
to us in the form of catastrophic environmental events, climatic and
otherwise, whether or not these are reported by the corporate media.
It is now widely accepted that we are living through the sixth mass
extinction in planetary history. The last one occurred 65 million years
ago, when the dinosaurs vanished. We are now losing biodiversity at a
rate similar to that time. But this mass extinction is driven by us. And
we will be one of the casualties. The only real debate is when. And this
debate is predicated on the unstated and highly problematic assumption
that we can continue to avoid nuclear war.
So what does the expression 'near term human extinction' mean? In
essence, according to those scientists who use the term, it means that
human beings will be extinct by about 2030. For a summary of the
evidence of this, with many references, listen to the lecture by
Professor Guy McPherson on 'Climate Collapse and Near Term Human
Why 2030? Because, according to McPherson, the 'perfect storm' of
environmental assaults that we are now inflicting on the Earth,
including the 28 self-reinforcing climate feedback loops that have
already been triggered, is so far beyond the Earth's capacity to absorb,
that there will be an ongoing succession of terminal breakdowns of key
ecological systems and processes – that is, habitat loss – over the next
decade that it will precipitate the demise of homo sapiens sapiens.
Now, it should be pointed out, many scientists disagree with this
timeframe. For example, science journalist Scott K. Johnson endeavours
to explain 'How Guy McPherson gets it wrong' here:
And, just recently, Dr Piers J Sellers, acting director of earth science
at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center, stated that 'It is almost certain
that we will see a rise of two degrees Celsius before 2100, and a
three-degree rise or higher is a possibility. The impacts over such a
short period would be huge. The longer we put off corrective action, the
more disruptive the outcome is likely to be.' See 'Wobbling on Climate
But even if Johnson and Sellers are right, and McPherson is wrong about
the timeframe, there are still many scientists who are keen to point out
that we are ongoingly breaching 'tipping points' that make human
survival increasingly problematic. In 2009, for example, Johan
Rockström, James Hansen and colleagues explained that three of nine
interlinked planetary boundaries – in relation to climate, biodiversity
loss and biogeochemical cycles – had already been overstepped. See 'A
safe operating space for humanity'
And, in 2012, Prof Kevin Anderson, Deputy Director of the UK's premier
climate modelling institution, the Tyndall Centre for Climate Change
Research http://www.tyndall.ac.uk/, warned that emissions are now out of
control and we are heading for a world that is 6 degrees hotter; he
pointed out that even the International Energy Agency, and conservative
organisations like it, are warning that we are on track for a 4 degree
increase (on the pre-industrial level) by 2040. He also accused too many
climate scientists of keeping quiet about the unrealistic assessments
put out by governments. See 'What They Won't Tell You About Climate
And what these assessments do not necessarily take into account is the
synergistic impact of our combined assaults on the environment including
those unrelated to the climate. These include the devastating assaults
on the environment through military violence (often leaving vast areas
uninhabitable), rainforest destruction, industrial farming, mining,
commercial fishing and the spreading radioactive contamination from
Fukushima. We are also systematically destroying the limited supply of
fresh water on the planet which means that water scarcity is becoming a
frequent reality for many people and the collapse of hydrological
systems is now expected by 2020. Human activity drives 200 species of
life (birds, animals, fish, insects) to extinction each day and 80% of
the world's forests and over 90% of the large fish in the ocean are
already gone. Despite this readily available information, governments
continue to prioritise spending $US2,000,000,000 each day on military
violence, the sole purpose of which is to terrorise and kill fellow
The point is simply this: you are welcome to analyse the scientific
evidence for yourself and make your own assessment of the timeframe and
the degree of severity of the threat. Perhaps human extinction will not
occur until next century. But whether we define 'near term' as 2030,
2040 or even next century, human extinction is now a distinct
possibility. And after 200,000 years of our species, calling this 'near
term' seems reasonable.
So is near term human extinction inevitable?
In my view, human extinction is the most likely outcome. But not simply
because we are inflicting too many insults on the planetary environment.
Extinction is inevitable because of human fear and, specifically,
unconscious fear: The fear in ourselves and others that is not
experienced consciously but which often drives three capacities that are
vitally important in any context: the focus of our attention, our
capacity to adequately analyse the evidence (if we get our attention
focused on it) and our behaviour in response to this analysis. For
example, if you do not know that your fear is making you screen out
unpalatable information, then you won't even notice that you have turned
your attention elsewhere and have now forgotten what you just read. Or
your fear might prevent you adequately analysing the evidence and/or
responding intelligently to it. See 'Why Violence?'
http://tinyurl.com/whyviolence and 'Fearless Psychology and Fearful
Psychology: Principles and Practice'
So, if you are one of the people still reading this article, you are
probably less frightened than most people. The others gave up before
they got to this paragraph. So let me now tell you the primary problem
with the fear. It distorts the mental focus, capacity for analysis and
the behaviour of national elites, that is, corporate owners and their
political, military, media, bureaucratic, academic and judicial lackeys.
In essence, corporate profits cannot be maximised in a world where
environmental constraints are taken into account, either through
sensible consideration or legal requirement, so fear will drive
dysfunctional corporate activity irrespective of its environmental cost.
And corporate executives will ensure that their political and other
lackeys do not get in their way because the fear that drives profit
maximizing behaviour is deep-seated and far outweighs any fears in
relation to the environment. For a fuller explanation of this point, see
'Love Denied: The Psychology of Materialism, Violence and War'.
This is why lobbying elites to change their behaviour in the direction
of environmental sustainability (or peace and justice, for that matter)
is a complete waste of time. It is their fear that locks them into what
they focus on, what they are 'thinking' and what they are doing, and
arguments, no matter how sensible or evidential, cannot work.
In essence then, it is fear that drives dysfunctional environmental
behaviours. And, history tells us, fear will prevent us taking
sufficient action in time.
So is there any point doing anything given that we are dead on track for
near term human extinction?
Well, if you are like me, you are one of those people who does not
intend to go down without a fight. A big fight! So you might consider
joining those of us participating in 'The Flame Tree Project to Save
Life on Earth' http://tinyurl.com/flametree: a fifteen year strategy to
address all of our environmental challenges systematically in a way that
undermines the elite fear that would destroy us all. You might also like
to sign the online pledge of 'The People's Charter to Create a
Nonviolent World' http://thepeoplesnonviolencecharter.wordpress.com
The Flame Tree Project was inspired by that great environmentalist,
Mohandas K. Gandhi, who identified the environmental crisis nearly one
hundred years ago and, having done so, subsequently lived his own life
in extraordinary simplicity and self-reliance, symbolised by his daily
spinning of khadi: 'Earth provides enough for every person's need but
not for every person's greed.'
Extinction might be howling outside our door but, if you have the
courage, you can still fight. There is no downside in trying. But we
need to fight strategically so that we defeat elite fear. How long do
you want to wait before joining the fight?
Robert J. Burrowes has a lifetime commitment to understanding
and ending human violence. He has done extensive research since 1966 in
an effort to understand why human beings are violent and has been a
nonviolent activist since 1981. He is the author of 'Why Violence?'
http://tinyurl.com/whyviolence His email address is firstname.lastname@example.org
and his website is at http://robertjburrowes.wordpress.com
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