The Earth has existed for 4.6 billion years and scientists predict its bulk of substance will be around until consumed by the sun, some 5 billion years from now. Halfway through this projected lifespan, humankind's primate forerunners have crawled and walked for 6 million years, a period so brief it wouldn't even be visible to the naked eye if depicted on a histogram graphic of the earth. On the other hand, the species known as "Modern Man" has only been present a mere 200,000 years, not even a quarter of a million years.
Civilization only dates back from 4,000 to 3,000 BCE or to about 5,500 years ago, around the same time as the longest surviving formal religion, Hinduism. Other surviving religions include Judaism, about 4,000 years old, Buddhism 2,500 years old, Christianity, less than 2,000 years and Islam, barely 1400 (click here for list of all religions). Nevertheless, these religions, long in league with governments, have considerable bearing upon the behavior and even the unbridled growth of the species.
This god-fearing species of humans has proven to be the mother planet's single biggest quandary. Consuming more land, air, water and vegetation than any other species, humans have greatly accelerated the extinction of other species. Humankind's growing appetite for animal protein, sport hunting and overabundant habitat only add to the momentum.
A full 99.9% of all earth's species are today extinct. With the exception of the virus, even parasites learn to adapt and coexist. So microscopic it exists at an atomic level, modern science considers the virus to be somewhere between living and non-living, an entity that usually preys upon a single species at a time. Continually evolving and mutating, it knows no limit to its needs and eventually, alters or destroys its host.
|The Great Escape - Dan Piraro's Bizarro comic depiction of an extraterrestrial race coming to the rescue of earth's remaining species. ©Copyright Dan Piraro/King Features|
A better place (really?)
However, to the mind of a religious fundamentalist, humans are special. Unlike other species, humans are aware of their own death. Consequently, to mask their fear of dying they assemble formalized beliefs in God or gods who will not only extend their life but also provide a paradise greater than that of earth's own resources (as well as a place of perpetual torment to satisfy their insatiable sadistic tendencies).
Why save the planet?
These fundamentalists abhor birth control yet embrace the end of days, which some have affectionately named "Rapture", when one of their misogynistic gods or demigods will arrive to establish a better world. Not surprising, these same fundamentalists have a long history of crusades and jihads where, hand in hand with government, they have continually promoted wars of extinction to pursue political, economic and, ultimately, totalitarian goals.
Centered upon military advancement, modern technology has split the atom to unleash unrivaled destructive forces, as few as a dozen thermonuclear devices would create titanic firestorms impossible to extinguish in a lifetime. Yet this species, said to be designed in God's image, continually storehouses tens of thousands of such weapons.
Today, after the human population has grown from 1.8 to 7.2 billion in just one century (1914 to 2014), it continues to increase at a record pace with a projected headcount reaching 9.6 billion by 2050. Sadly, the largest growth is projected in poor, undeveloped countries. Not a coincidence, this also happens to be where religious influence upon government is strongest.
The price of dominance
Every day, dozens of species vital to the survival of the food chain and planet's ecosystem are forced into extinction. The earth's air, water and coral reefs now begin to pass beyond the point of reasonable repair, permanently becoming chemically altered. Lastly, human growth has finally surpassed the earth's ability to sustain it, as the FAO's (Food and Agriculture Organization) projected requirement of a 70% food production increase is unlikely to be met.
|Critical Extinction Levels - Only after the 14th century did humans begin to outpace resource usage. By the 19th century and the Industrial Revolution, animal habitats began to disappear. This trend has accelerated exponentially over the past two centuries until today we have the current Extinction Crisis. |
Data source: Scott, J.M. 2008, Threats to Biological Diversity: Global Continental, Local, U.S. Geological Survey, Idaho Cooperative Fish and Wildlife, Research Unit, University of Idaho. Artwork provided by T. Mallon ©2015.
Like a virus, the human species continues to destroy its own host. The only real differences are that the virus does so without fear of death and doesn't argue with science.
One last point, five billion years from now it will not be an earth occupied by humans, which a giant sun consumes. Instead, if any life survives, it may well be one of earth's highly evolved viruses, by then watching safely a galaxy or so away, but only if it has learned to humble itself as just another interconnected and codependent species.