Could this be humanity's last century on the planet? Of course! Here are seven scientifically plausible ways that our species might die out sooner rather than later.
A lot of times when we talk about being more prepared in preventing pathogens from spreading or preventing pandemics, what we're really talking about is first response, stepping up our first response, so that when we have outbreaks of disease that our hospitals are prepared and we have vaccines stockpiled and we are able to fly our experts around really quickly to get to the scene of the outbreak, and things like that. But that's not actually preventing these pathogens from emerging and from causing outbreaks. That's kind of after the fire has started, then we rush in with our fire extinguishers.
But to really prevent them would mean stepping it way farther back, and that is possible now, because … we know there's certain places that have higher risk of pathogens emerging, and we can do kind of active surveillance in those places by mapping the microbes that are there, by surveilling people or animals who are more likely to spread or to have spill-overs of microbes into their bodies. … We have more advanced detection capacity now with genetic analysis and other kinds of ways that we can see where these invisible microbes are spreading and changing.
There's nothing that a pandemic disease loves more than city life, with lots of life forms squashed into close quarters with each other, hopefully without much sanitation. And the time is ripe for a deadly global pandemic, because half of Homo sapiens lives in cities — plus, we have airline travel, so we can ship the pandemic disease around the globe in less than 24 hours. If the disease is virulent enough, humanity could be wiped out in a matter of months.
What most people forget is that human pandemics may not be the most awful way to go. Pandemic crop diseases can be just as virulent as animal diseases, and they can decimate an entire season's worth of staple foods. Because many farmers buy identical strains of staple crops from Monsanto and other corporations, all their crops would be vulnerable to the same infectious diseases. A pandemic could rip through large parts the world's food supply in just one season. If enough crop pandemics struck, humanity could slowly starve to death, or rip itself apart with food riots.
2. Bolide Impact
A bolide is a really large chunk of matter from space, often on fire, that can form a large crater when it smashes into, say, a planet. Often, geologists will describe the event that wiped out the dinosaurs as a "bolide impact." Basically, it's a way of saying "we aren't sure whether that giant thing that smacked into the Earth was a comet or an asteroid, but we know it made a giant crater." There are millions of potential bolides out there, many of them zooming past Earth, and we may not see them coming .
It has recently been proposed that a comet or an asteroid may have exploded over northeastern North America around 12,900 years ago. The resulting fireball touched off immense wildfires over much of North America and sent debris into the atmosphere that settled as far away as Europe. A thousand year period of global cooling known as the Younger Dryas began about this same time and may have been the result of the bolide (comet or asteroid) explosion. Previously the Younger Dryas was thought to have resulted from the sudden influx into the Atlantic Ocean of fresh cold water from large glacial lakes that had been forming at the front of the retreating continental glaciation following the retreat of the ice sheet near the end of the last ice age. Perhaps the breakup of the ice was a result of the exploding bolide.
The theory of an exploding bolide could explain other key events that happened around this same time period. In addition to the sudden mini-ice age recognized as the Younger Dryas, the distinctive Early American Clovis culture seems to have vanished at this time. Also a number of mammal species – mammoths, mastodons, giant ground sloths, giant beavers, saber-tooth cats, horses, and camels – went extinct about this same time. Much of the evidence for a bolide impact is found in a distinctive carbon-rich layer of sediment containing material indicating extraterrestrial origin. This sedimentary layer has been found at a number of Clovis habitation sites in North America.
All we need is for a generously-sized bolide to smack into the planet, and — well, we aren't entirely sure what might happen. One possibility is that the planet will be wrapped in fire, burning everyone who isn't deep underwater or underground. Another is that debris from the impact will cloak the planet in dark clouds, cutting off the sun and killing all plant life. Probably a little of both. Bye, bye Homo sapiens.
3. Large Igneous Provinces
You've heard about the caldera volcano under Yellowstone , which could erupt at some point and release enough lava to pave over Yellowstone Park. But that's nothing compared to the damage that can be done by a large igneous province, which is a volcano that doesn't explode. Instead, a huge crack opens in the Earth's crust — often between tectonic plates — and lava just starts bubbling out, oozing across the landscape, releasing tons of toxic gasses and ash. The thing about an igneous province is that it can keep up the oozing for centuries. And over time, that fills the atmosphere with poisons and wrecks the environment. So humanity wouldn't die out right away, but eventually the planet might kill us with poisons from beneath our planet's crust.
It would explode with a force a thousand times more powerful than the Mount St Helens eruption in 1980.
Spewing lava far into the sky, a cloud of plant-killing ash would fan out and dump a layer 10ft deep up to 1,000 miles away.
Two-thirds of the U.S. could become uninhabitable as toxic air sweeps through it, grounding thousands of flights and forcing millions to leave their homes.
But hampered by a lack of data they have stopped short of an all-out warning and they are unable to put a date on when the next disaster might take place.
Scientists are predicting that the world's largest super-volcano in one of America's most popular national parks could erupt in the near future.
Yellowstone National Park’s caldera has erupted three times in the last 2.1million years and researchers monitoring it say we could be in for another eruption.
4. Climate Change
The term “weather” refers to how the atmosphere behaves in a specific area over a short period of time, usually hours or days. “Climate” refers to general weather patterns over a broad area for a long period of time. Both weather and climate account for qualities like temperature, precipitation, and humidity.
The global climate is warming at an unprecedented rate. An overwhelming body of evidence suggests global temperatures will continue to rise, and that human activities such as fossil fuel combustion, deforestation, and agriculture are the dominant cause.These activities release greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, such as carbon dioxide, methane, and nitrous oxide, that trap the sun’s heat and warm the atmosphere—hence the name “greenhouse.” Natural processes also produce GHG emissions; however, these have generally been counterbalanced by the capacity of trees, soil, oceans, and other sinks (storehouses) to sequester (capture and store) emissions.
Our climate is changing, just as it has throughout the planet's 4.5 billion-year lifespan. Right now, it's changing pretty fast, and that means storm patterns are getting more intense, rainfall is coming erratically, and some areas are suffering major droughts. Though you'd think the scariest part of climate change would be superstorms, the real damage is long-term. Over the next century or more, these changes will wreck our crops faster than a pandemic and leave many people to suffer a famine worse than anything the world has ever seen.
Climate change is among the greatest threats of our generation—and of generations to come—to public health, ecosystems, and the economy. The projected impacts of climate change, many of which are already occurring, include:
More frequent and intense hurricanes, floods, heat waves, and other extreme weather events
Increased heat-related deaths
Food and water shortages
Forced migration from rising sea levels and natural disasters
Increased damages from flooding and wildfires
Spreading insect-borne and water-borne diseases
Scientists and world leaders have called for immediate and dramatic action to reduce GHG emissions, enhance emissions sinks,and prepare for the impacts that are expected to occur. The food system is one of the areas where urgent interventions are needed most.
5. Radiation Disaster
The most obvious way that a radiation disaster might wipe out humanity is, of course, from an atomic war. And that's still not out of the question — the people who aren't killed by fire and radiation sickness might die from famine during the nuclear winter that will follow. But cheer up! We might not be the authors of our own demise. We could die from a nearby gamma ray burst, or a blast of highly energetic, radioactive particles streaming out of an exploding star. It would just fry off Earth's atmosphere, and us along with it. You never know when one of these will strike next, so enjoy living the rest of your life knowing that a gamma ray burst could destroy the world at any time.
The world's largest database of relevant information, the register contains nothing but facts, which are impossible to ignore. It only monitors the serious consequence of the disaster, thyroid carcinoma in children, caused by failure to take specific measures. They include the prevention of iodine deficiency, and limits on the consumption of locally grown foods. They attribute 200 out of the 400 cases of thyroid carcinoma monitored by medical staff in the regions that were affected the hardest by the consequences of the Chernobyl disaster. There has been one terminal case. The World Health Organization wrote in a 2006 report: "A large increase in the incidence of thyroid cancer has occurred among people who were young children and adolescents at the time of the accident and lived in the most contaminated areas of Belarus, the Russian Federation and Ukraine.
This was due to the high levels of radioactive iodine released from the Chernobyl reactor in the early days after the accident. Radioactive iodine was deposited in pastures eaten by cows who then concentrated it in their milk which was subsequently drunk by children. This was further exacerbated by a general iodine deficiency in the local diet causing more of the radioactive iodine to be accumulated in the thyroid. Since radioactive iodine is short lived, if people had stopped giving locally supplied contaminated milk to children for a few months following the accident, it is likely that most of the increase in radiation-induced thyroid cancer would not have resulted." No other effects of the Chernobyl accident detrimental to human health were registered, which overturned all myths and stereotypes about its after-effects. The biological effects of radiation are measured in millisievert (mSv). Of the 2.8 million people who were close to the disaster zone, 2.5 million received an additional amount of less than 10 mSv, or one-fifth of the average global background radiation.
Less than 2,000 people received an additional dose of more than 100 mSv, which is 33% less than the amount the residents of Finland, Belgium or Russia's Republic of Altai receive annually. For this reason, there are no – and cannot be any – other consequences of the disaster other than the above-mentioned thyroid cancer. It should be noted that the death rate from cancer that is not connected to radiation among any given group of 2.8 million people, irrespective of their place of residence, is between 4,000 and 6,000 annually, or 80,000-120,000 per 20 years. Another quotation: "For comparison, the high radiation dose a patient typically receives from one whole body computer tomography (CT) scan is approximately equivalent to the total dose accumulated in 20 years by the residents of the low contaminated areas following the Chernobyl accident." A relevant example is the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945, which killed 210,000. Only 480 of the 86,000 survivors of the tragedy, who were regularly screened by the Japanese medical register since 1950, died of radiation-related cancer.
The world is abandoning the use of nuclear power, as the Chernobyl disaster serves as a constant reminder of a possible radiation catastrophe. Facts: The ten leading nations of the world produce over 80% of nuclear power. Russia is falling behind all developed nations who have already adopted nuclear power industry development programs. Developing countries have even more ambitious programs on nuclear power development. The world is currently experiencing a nuclear power renaissance, as almost all leading nations of the world have realized that only nuclear power can resolve the issues of sustainable development, environmental protection, and climate change. We have scared ourselves with the Chernobyl disaster to such a degree that we need to understand how we managed to let that unfold. Professor Rafael Arutyunyan, Ph. D. in physics and mathematics, is first deputy director of the Institute of Safe Nuclear Power Engineering at the Russian Academy of Sciences The opinions expressed in this article are the author's and do not necessarily represent those of RIA Novosti.
6. Invasive Species
Humans love to move life forms around the planet — we brought kudzu and plague to the Americas, and brought tomatoes and corn to Europe. We also moved rats and ants all over the world in ocean vessels. And that's just the beginning. The problem is that sometimes these transplanted organisms become invasive species. With no natural predators, they take over every last habitat, eating everything in their paths — or covering everything in a thick blanket of vines (I'm still looking at you, kudzu). Eventually this can cause catastrophic collapse of food webs, or the delicate balance of predator and prey. Plants and animals we depend on for food may no longer be able to grow in environments with invasive species. Cue the food riots and famine and long, slow death of Homo sapiens. Given that we're an invasive species ourselves, this might be a fitting way to go.
Famine is often considered one of the worst natural disasters on Earth. Its effects are widespread, and the damage caused by a famine can last for months, if not years. Often times caused by other natural disasters, it can destroy whole villages, and cause mass exodus. Death by starvation and malnutrition is slow and painful, and often hits the youngest and the elderly the hardest. Unfortunately, at times it is brought upon by political incompetency, and cruelty towards others can exacerbate the situation. Below are 10 terrible famines experienced throughout human history.
One of the most famous famines in history, the Great Famine was caused by a devastating potato disease. 33% of the Irish population relied on the potato for sustenance, and the onset of the disease in 1845 triggered mass starvations that lasted until 1853. The large Catholic population was suppressed by British rule, and left unable to own or lease land, or hold a profession. When the blight struck, British ships prevented other nations from delivering food aid. Ireland experienced a mass exodus, with upwards of 2 million people fleeing the country, many to the United States. At its conclusion in 1853, 1.5 million Irish were dead, and an additional 2 million had emigrated. In total, the population of Ireland shrunk by a resounding 25%.
7. Black Swan
The term "black swan" refers to a sudden, improbable development that changes everything.
When it comes to the apocalypse, you always have to account for a possible black swan event. Perhaps there will be an alien invasion, or we'll discover that the motion of plate tectonics doesn't happen quite as slowly as we thought it did.
One of the most popular black swan theories about human extinction is that we will invent death machines that kill us all. Probably they will be artificial intelligences like Skynet from the Terminator movies, who have been programmed for war and take their job a lot more seriously than we had hoped they would. Or they might just be so intelligent that they decide humans are the equivalent of ants. They don't mean us any harm, but they don't mind stepping on us or exterminating us if we get in the way of whatever incomprehensible things they are doing.
Stephen Hawking has been quoted as saying that it is perfectly rational to assume intelligent life exists somewhere in the universe.
But while the discovery of life on another world may sound exciting, Hawking also believes that if a race of beings were sufficiently advanced enough to reach us, they would pose a huge threat to everyone and everything here on Earth.
How will our first interactions with a visiting alien civilization take place? Observation would likely be followed by covert visitation by the aliens in order to judge our abilities and technological level even further. If man were to meet an alien race tomorrow, could our existing infrastructure cope? We have to assume that a sufficiently advanced civilisation is aware of the dangers of disease to both parties, so hopefully they'll have brought protection along for this intergalactic booty call. Whether or not an alien race shares our concepts of good and evil is hard to say, but that's probably how we'll judge them, so how can we be so sure they'll come to us with good intentions?
Timeless Bits of Wisdom on How to Grow Everything Organically, from the Good Old Days When Everyone Did
Old-time gardeners were ahead of their time! Their ideas for wildflower gardens, children's gardens, organic pest controls, decorating with houseplants, healing with herbs, and more are at the forefront of modern gardening trends. Take a look back to the future of gardening with this incredible collection of gardening advice from successful 17th-, 18th-, 19th-, and early 20th-century gardeners.
Early gardeners knew what they were doing–they had to, since they depended on their plants for food, medicine, home decorations, and recreation! Whether you're growing vegetables, flowers, herbs, fruits, trees, shrubs, wildflowers, houseplants, or lawn grass, these old-time tips will help you get the most out of your plantings. Do you want a lusher lawn? How about more beautiful flowerbeds or hints for making your yard look bigger? You'll find all that and more in Old Time Wisdom.
Old-Time Wisdom" boxes present early gardeners' best planting notions.
* Tried-and-true recipes from early kitchens will tickle your tastebuds.
* "Strange but True" boxes reveal weird, wacky, and wonderful gardening techniques.
* A source list makes it easy to locate wonderful old-time plants.
* Authentic old-time illustrations take you back to a time when garden tips were on everyone's lips.
* A "Recommended Reading" list guides you to more great ideas from the past.