The True Armageddon
Part I - Biodiversity and Ecosystems
We have always held the assumption that humans will live on the earth for thousands, even millions more years. The earth provides us with a seemingly endless supply of resources, so much so that many humans no longer need to struggle to survive, and instead turn towards other, leisurely pursuits.
For the past few millennia, humans' struggle for life has diminished so much that we have instead focused on improving the quality of our lives. Technology has become more and more advanced, and with it, the exponential growth of the human population. All of this leisure has left us with plenty of time to speculate. Among the most popular topics is the predicted end of the world. Along with some random dates and many scientific or mathematically backed estimates, the predicted end of the world can range from just a few months to millions of years away. The sun isn’t even predicted to blow up for another billion years. Most of the more scientific predictions (many of which are caused by rare events) range around a few thousand years.
Yet, the end of the world, at least for life on Earth, is much, much, closer than you think. The earth may very well become unlivable in just a few decades, although not in the way you might think it would. Due to human activity, natural resources are running dry, and our ecosystems are destroyed one by one. Our fossil fuels are draining at an incredible rate, the rainforests, one of our main providers and fighters against global warming disappearing day by day as deforestation occurs, and populations expanding so fast that some living areas become almost impossible to live in. The good news is, there are actually steps we can take to delay this “end of the world”, and maybe even reverse the damage we have wreaked upon the Earth. To find out about the solutions, however, we must look at the causes.
Allow us to address the elephant in the room, fossil fuels. What are fossil fuels, and how are they created? Fossil fuels are natural fuels formed by decomposing organisms over the course of millions and millions of years. Once burned, it releases large amounts of energy. When humans first discovered this amazing resource, it was perfect. It was easy to process and use, and on top of everything, it looked as if it would never run out! An overwhelming amount of people rely on electricity in at least some aspect of their lives. Fresh produce has to be kept cool by refrigerators. A good number of people use motorized vehicles, such as cars and busses. Things such as lights, digital devices, even small Tamagotchi pets require electricity. So, where does all this power come from? A whopping 80% of the US’s power is sourced from, you guessed it, fossil fuels. And unfortunately for us, the once enormous supply of fossil fuels is in fact, starting to run dry. An article by the Millennium Alliance for Humanity and the Biosphere (MAHB) predicts that oil will run out by 2052, gas will end by 2060, and coal will end by 2090, that is to say, at the rate in which we are currently consuming these resources, our last fossil fuels will disappear in only 70 years.
So, what is the solution? There are many alternatives to the burning of fossil fuels for energy. The most predominant ones are water turbines, windmills, and solar panels. Though windmills and turbines are too large to be easily available to all, solar panels have become increasingly common due to their convenient nature and accessibility. It is understandable that not everyone may be able to afford solar panels, there are still steps you can take to reduce the amount of energy you use each day, such as turning off lights when you don’t need them or commuting to work by bicycle. And with the elephant addressed, let’s move onto something arguably even more important, not another animal, but the room itself.
Part II - Ecosystems in Environmental Poverty
Before we start, let’s go on a quick adventure. Visualize yourself standing in the middle of a rainforest. The air is hot and humid and carries the gentle scent of soil and trees. You can hear birds calling to each other in the distance, each call similar and yet completely unique, and the sound melds together into a calming song. The curious face of a tamarin peers out at you from behind the lush, broad leaves of a nearby tree, and upon noticing your attention, scampers away. Less than what seems like a few seconds later, it is already scampering across the branches of some distant tree, and a few more seconds later, it is gone. You turn around and come face to face with a furry, wide-faced creature. Startled, you stumble backward and a twig snaps under your feet. Then you realize that it is only a sloth. The sloth lets out a quiet squeaking noise and turns toward you. You stare at each other for a few moments, then the sloth nestles itself comfortably on its branch and falls asleep. You look around you once more, and marvel at all the different types of flowers, painting the landscape with a million colors. You gaze in awe at the sheer height of the trees, while a slight breeze carries the sweet scent of ripe fruit towards you. All around you, the forest is teeming with life, and standing there, engulfed by gentle rays of sunshine beaming down at you through the canopy, you feel as if you are part of the harmonious song of the rainforest.
It’s no secret that a number of unfortunate things have happened to our rainforests in recent years. One of the many significant events includes the massive Amazone wildfire in 2019, where about 15-17 percent of the Amazon Rainforest has been burned by wildfires. If that number increases to 25%, rainforests will lose their capacity to absorb carbon dioxide. This could cause the entire ecosystem to collapse and will result in the land turning into dry savanna. The melting permafrost of the arctic, caused by global warming, releases massive amounts of carbon dioxide, both speeding up the process of global warming which in turn increases the chance of fires. This entire process is a vicious cycle that can just be slowed and even stopped if we are just a little bit more mindful of our environmental choices. On top of this, 70% of known cancer- fighting plants exist only in the rainforest. Rainforests are also biodiversity hotspots, or in other words, home to a gargantuan multitude of plants and animals. The vast majority of our environmental issues take root in the poor choices humans make and our ever- increasing numbers only make the situation worse. However, there is still hope. By doing something as simple as choosing green methods of transportation or carpooling, you can decrease your carbon footprint by a lot. By reducing the amount of meat we eat, eating locally, and where we get our electricity, we can spare the earth from a lot of carbon emissions. If we all do our part, we may someday see the rainforest growing back and again reaching its former glory.