According to current estimates, the first Homo Sapiens–us as a species–appeared two hundred thousand years ago. Our species’ predecessors had been using stone tools for the previous three million years. Almost 12,000 years ago, the glaciers from what is commonly referred to as the Ice Age began to retreat and human civilization began advancing. This advancement has always been increasing in speed and with each advancing day, our technological abilities continue to increase.
But our spiritual abilities remain remarkably primitive. Indeed, it’s quite possible that in this Western material world, our spiritual abilities have declined. Because our spiritual awareness has not kept up with our technological awareness, we have developed the capacity for destruction that no other species on Earth has been able to achieve. Our lack of wisdom puts us at risk of bringing the human race–if not all life on earth–to an abrupt end. While Jesus and Muhammad made important spiritual contributions to humankind–many of which that are relevant today–the events of the first and seventh centuries of the Common Era (known to Christians as Anno Domini or A.D.) pale compared to what we are facing now.
Even though large numbers of us know that we are headed on a destructive course, we push it out of our minds because the realities are too frightening to imagine. To contemplate these scenarios is a shock to our mental capacities. We deal with these frightening scenarios by trying not to think about it too much, and going on with our daily lives. This is despite the fact that our daily lives might very well be contributing to that destruction–especially in the most technologically advanced countries of this world.
While it is painful to write about the many ways that us and our Earth face great peril, it is necessary for me to do so here because we need to be reminded. But after I do so, please continue to read, because it is only through this knowledge that we can begin to address these problems. To not do so is to engage in planet-wide suicide.
We are now in the sixth mass extinction event in Earth’s 4.5 billion year history, with the first mass extinction event 444 million years ago. The most recent one was 66 million years ago. All of these wiped out more than 75% of species living on this earth. The third one, 251 million years ago, nearly succeeded in wiping out all life on earth, with 96% of species at that time facing extinction. Scientists say it was caused by a massive amounts of volcanic activity in Siberia over a period of a million year that released a lot of carbon dioxide into the air, caused bacteria to release massive amount of methane, and acidified the oceans leading to massive releases of poisonous hydrogen sulfide. The release of large amounts of carbon dioxide into the air in these modern times show the potential for results similar to the worst extinction event Earth has ever faced.
One of the greatest threats to life on earth as we know it is abrupt climate change brought about by dramatic increases in carbon dioxide. It was 280 parts per million (0.0028% of Earth’s atmosphere) in the mid 1700s CE but has now increased to 410 ppm. It’s a very small portion of the atmosphere but it has a profound effect in affecting the temperature of the planet. We are also seeing the first evidence of the release of massive amounts of methane that had been in the frozen parts of Siberia, the Arctic, and various parts of the ocean floor, causing the potential for even more rapid changes. Methane is many times more powerful as a greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide.
It is very difficult to predict what will be the result of the climate change we are experiencing. But if it happens too fast, many ecological systems won’t be able to adapt quickly enough and will collapse. Current temperatures–upon which many ecosystems and agricultural symptoms depend on–could change. We could see mass extinctions and widespread catastrophic crop failures and famine. We are seeing an increase in forest destruction from wildfires, as trees struggle to adapt. The Arctic, Greenland, and Antarctic ice sheets are melting much faster than expected. This could potentially flood coastal cities worldwide and affect upwards of one tenth of the current world population. More extreme weather events and more unpredictable weather will also be disruptive and create more refugees. Both sea level rise and weather disruptions are likely to have a negative effect on the availability of freshwater, which could lead to more disruptions and conflict.
But there are other factors besides climate disruption that threaten life as we know it. For example, modern agricultural practices focused on high yields and maximum profits have caused half of the Earth’s topsoil to erode, pointing to even more potential disruptions in the world food supply. An even more unnerving factor is the disappearance of bees, largely due to pesticides, whose pollination activities are responsible for one-third of our food. Deforestation, driven by development, agriculture and fuel leads to permanent loss of forest and with it, mass sources of oxygen. And humankind is using so many resources that we currently consume them 50% faster than we can regenerate them. At current rates of consumption, we will be consuming them 100% faster than they can regenerate by 2030. That is, if our modern civilization makes it to 2030.
The very existence of war and nuclear weapons are probably the strongest proof of a glaring lack of spiritual advancement in comparison to technological advancement. Never before have human beings had the capacity to destroy the world as we know it in a matter of hours. Pressures from all of the other climate and resource issues mentioned above increase the risks of nuclear war. Many argue now that resources are driving current U.S. wars in the Middle East, which have been ongoing, with little knowledge of it shared with the public.
I think that if there’s any glimmer of hope in today’s society, it is that there are large numbers of people waking up to this reality and trying to do something about it. That gives the human race and life on earth hope. There are many good things happening in our society right now. Many people are questioning a lot of the basic underpinnings upon which this modern society is built. There are many people opposed to war, environmental degradation, racism, and the advances in these areas are significant.
But those focused on making positive change need to take into account one more thing. Despite our best efforts, our modern civilization might not make it to 2030, or extend much beyond that. For more elaboration on this, please read Why The Stars Will Return To The Sky.