Humanity Might Not Survive the Next Century According to Australian Scientist
June 28, 2010
Mankind is headed for a mass extinction, along with many other species
clinging to Earth, and there’s probably nothing to be done about
according to one scientist. Frank Fenner, a much-lauded and awarded
scientist hailing from Canberra, Australia, doesn’t see much hope for
humans in the future. Between rampant pollution, ecological
destruction, overpopulation and over-consumption, the planet is
already past its tipping point – it’s not a question of if, but when
this mass extinction will occur.
Where one might see this view as the ramblings of a crackpot, Fenner is certainly no such thing. His contributions to science over the last 60+ years are just as staggering as his proclamation. An Australian Academy of Science as well as Royal Society fellow, Fenner holds credits in everything from eradicating smallpox and helping Australia with victories in New Guinea by dealing with malaria among their troops to wild rabbit population control with the myxomatosis virus. He has contributed to nearly 300 papers and book chapters as well as written or co-written 22 of his own books. In 1973 he established the Centre for Resource and Environmental Studies. Still active in science and education, until recently he was still showing up for work every day at the John Curtin School of Medical Research at ANU (which he directed from 1967 to 1973) and will be opening a symposium at the Australian Academy of Science titled Healthy Climate, Planet and People next week to help connect environmental science and environmental policy.
Fenner likens the current global situation to the devastation of Easter Island. The Rapanui, the Polynesian settlers of Easter Island, found a pristine mote of land and in the next millennium or so proceeded to completely devastate its ecosystem by cutting down nearly every tree on the island. Entire species disappeared and shortly after, so did most of the Rapanui. They had driven the island into an unsustainable ecological disaster.
“We’ll undergo the same fate as the people on Easter Island,” Fenner told The Australian in a recent interview. “Climate change is just at the very beginning. But we’re seeing remarkable changes in the weather already.
”The Aborigines showed that without science and the production of carbon dioxide and global warming, they could survive for 40,000 or 50,000 years. But the world can’t. The human species is likely to go the same way as many of the species that we’ve seen disappear.
“Homo sapiens will become extinct, perhaps within 100 years. A lot of other animals will, too. It’s an irreversible situation. I think it’s too late. I try not to express that because people are trying to do something, but they keep putting it off,” he explains.
Fenner is not alone in his belief. Many other scientists feel that humanity has driven the world over the edge with no hope of rectifying the situation before we meet our bitter end, taking many other species along for the one-way trip. But others, including some of Fenner’s colleagues, believe it isn’t too late. However, the time in which to address the issues is rapidly coming to an end.
Stephen Boyden, retired ANU professor and friend and colleague of Fenner’s claims “Frank may be right, but some of us still harbour the hope that there will come about an awareness of the situation and, as a result, the revolutionary changes necessary to achieve ecological sustainability.
”That’s where Frank and I differ. We’re both aware of the seriousness of the situation, but I don’t accept that it’s necessarily too late. While there’s a glimmer of hope, it’s worth working to solve the problem. We have the scientific knowledge to do it but we don’t have the political will."
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