Are we, as a species, on the brink of a worldwide human extinction? An astonishing number of people seem to think so; as of 2013, 3.7 million Americans considered themselves “Preppers” (defined by the American Preppers Network as someone who “takes steps to mitigate the long lasting effect of a severe impact on their world”) — and that number is growing. It isn’t just radicals, zombie enthusiasts, or even average citizens who believe the end is near — notable scientists like Stephen Hawking and members of the Centre for the Study of Existential Risk think so, too.
“The biggest threat (for humanity) would be either nuclear war or something from space such as a high energy solar flare, asteroid, or gamma ray burst,” says a former counterintelligence special agent and combat veteran known simply as Graywolf. “There is also a growing threat of AI (artificial intelligence) and/or nanotechnology running amok,” adds the emergency preparedness expert and author of the Graywolf Survival blog.
Whether humanity becomes the author of its own demise or the universe decides our time is up, here are 7 signs that we are teetering on the brink of a worldwide human extinction.
1. The Unprecedented Rate of Climate Change
There is no doubt that our climate is changing. While small fluctuations in the Earth’s climate are normal, global climate changes within the past few decades have skyrocketed well above normal levels — and 95 percent of this change is most likely due to careless human activity. Massive global warming is thought to be the cause of the Permian extinction 250 million years ago, which killed off 90 percent of all living things at the time. It was an apocalypse that evidence strongly suggests could be repeated.
Strides are being made to correct this problem, both within global organizations like Greenpeace and in the homes of average citizens; but will it be enough to undo the damage that has already been done? As long as capitalistic ideals and the president’s denial of climate change (despite record high temperatures across the world for the past several years) continue to trump environmental protection, human extinction continues to loom ever closer.
2. Massive Species Extinction: Not Just for the Bees
Global warming is not the only indicator of human extinction — plant and animal species are dying out at a rate of 1,000 to 10,000 times the expected rate of background extinction (the three to five species that are normally expected to go extinct each year). Climate change plays a role; but deforestation, hunting and poaching, destruction of habitats, and the wasteful habits of modern agriculture are killing off Earth’s inhabitants at an alarming rate.
The massive demise of our bees over the past 20 years because of nicotine-based systemic pesticides is distinctly compelling evidence of the devastating consequences when we poison the planet. For humans, it may be only a matter of time before this “sixth extinction” becomes more than just a sensational news story. “In essence, we are the bees slowly being poisoned by sublethal dose,” says Maryam Henein, director of the film Vanishing of the Bees.
3. Food Crisis — Purity, Supply, And Allocation
A 2015 study suggests that it would only take three successive natural weather disasters to destroy our food production and throw the world into global famine. Unsustainable farming practices contribute to the problem; and a growing global population means that we need to not only produce food more efficiently, but share it more equally. There is also the increasing reality of GMO crop contamination threatening the purity of our natural and organic food supply.
“I see world food shortage as a moderate risk,” Graywolf says. The possibility is there, but “it would most likely be preceded by war or some other catastrophe.” You have only to look at Syria to see how this is happening now — small scale wars have a major impact on the planet as people migrate across the world in droves because they have no food, among other things.”
“We currently produce enough food to feed Earth’s population. The issue is allocation. In the name of feeding the world we are shooting ourselves in the foot by destroying the soil that nourishes us with modern agriculture,” adds Henein.
According to Henein, as long as giants like Monsanto feed us the lie that there isn’t enough food to go around, people will continue to go hungry while 1.3 billion tons of food is wasted each year.
4. Human Extinction By Overpopulation
Earth currently houses 7 billion people. If that number keeps growing, we will outstrip our supply of resources — not just food, but coal, oil, trees, and even fresh water. Rural areas will begin to disappear as cities grow larger and harder to sustain, and rioting will almost certainly run rampant if civil unrest reaches a breaking point.
If population growth continues at its current rate, Earth’s population will hit 9 billion by 2050 — that’s an additional 2 billion people in less than half a century. Fortunately, the millennial generation is getting married later and having fewer kids than their parents and grandparents, so there could be hope if this trend continues — although the population in developing countries is still growing.
Overpopulation isn’t the only possibility, however. As long as major corporations are actively feeding us addictive and deadly poisons, medicating us with pharmaceuticals that destroy the immune system, and polluting the very air we breathe with toxic chemicals, the threat of human extinction by forced population control could be more imminent than you might think.
5. The Deadliest Epidemic Yet
Human extinction is not so unbelievable when you consider this epidemic. Epidemic diseases have been around almost as long as civilization itself. From the black plague to smallpox, typhoid to the Spanish flu — for millennia, viruses and bacteria have kept our numbers from swelling to unsustainable heights. Now, due to overuse and inappropriate use of antibiotics, there’s a new, possibly even more nefarious threat: large scale antimicrobial resistance (AMR).
Antimicrobial resistance (AMR) poses a huge threat to human health that could already be responsible for as many as 10 million deaths each year. MRSA is not the only antimicrobial resistant disease in the world — strains of E. coli, influenza, and even tuberculosis have developed drug resistances. Until antibiotics become a last resort medication instead of standard procedure, AMR will remain one of the top contenders for the cause of an end-of-the-world-as-we-know-it scenario.
6. Superintelligent Technology — It’s Not Just Sci-Fi Anymore
AI, biotechnology, nanotechnology … we’re entering a technological realm unlike anything in the entirety of human history. Many experts believe that super intelligence could easily turn against us, mercilessly wiping out the humans who are destroying the planet we all call home. The threat of technological terrorism looms as well — because even if superintelligent AI don’t decide to annihilate us on their own, a global terrorist might have no bones about programming a few thousand bots to do so.
Graywolf reminds us that while emerging technology could spell our doom, it has the potential to be a valuable tool in recovering after a worldwide catastrophe. “AI certainly poses a huge threat, but it could also help us in a lot of ways by making communication and knowledge more efficient.” Without communication after the fact, our chances of re-establishing a stable civilization are slim.
7. Dwindling Freshwater Supply
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), 1.1 billion people do not have access to clean drinking water, and that number is rising sharply. Some 3.4 million people, mostly children, die annually from water-related diseases. And while we’d like to believe that this issue won’t affect us here in the States, it is not married to the Third World.
According to environmental activist and veritable “waterkeeper” Erin Brockovich, at least 40 states are anticipating local, regional, or statewide water shortages within the next 10 years — and this in combination with severe water contamination. Fracking poisons alone are overrunning imperiled communities and indigenous reservations in the U.S.
The situation is especially exacerbated under the Trump administration’s policy of allowing businesses to dump whatever poisons they want into our waterways. The policy may fatten the bottom lines of major corporations, but those bottom lines won’t matter if water contamination leads to the extinction of the human species.
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To Prep or Not to Prep …
Human extinction may be on our doorstep. Benjamin Franklin once said, “By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail.” (Editor’s Note: This is best illustrated by the Aesop’s Fable of The Grasshopper And the Ant. The fable describes a hungry grasshopper who has been singing all summer then begs for food from an ant when winter comes, but the ant refuses. The situation sums up moral lessons about the virtues of hard work and planning for the future).
The end of the world may not be coming tomorrow — we hope — but nearly 4 million Americans are preparing not to fail, no matter what may come. With the signs of dangerous times on our doorstep, it makes sense to be prepared, and you don’t have to spend thousands on fancy gear to do it.
Survivalist Graywolf’s advice? “Skills are much more important than stuff. Spend more money and time learning valuable skills than buying things that might not be available to you (after a disaster).” No matter how much canned food you have stored in your basement — and especially if you have chemical-laden, IQ-lowering emergency food — skills are something that you can take with you anywhere, no matter which apocalypse scenario plays out in the end.
Virginia Drayer is a stay-at-home mom of four and holistic living nut. Writer by nature and dedicated meditator, she enjoys making her own body products, debating philosophy, and all things green. Get inside her mind at Naturally Inspired Living.
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