The End is Near

After wrongly predicting that human life would end this past weekend, an evangelical preacher has become the target of jokes by comedians and newsmen alike. But, from the perspective of natural history, his guess may not have been too far from the truth.

Some 13.7 billion years after the Big Bang and 4.6 billion years after the formation of our home planet, the human race is less than 150,000 years old but already facing our own extinction. The end will not likely come by time zone, as the preacher suggested, but it could unfold rather rapidly, the consequence of a major asteroid strike or supervolcano eruption. More likely, we will orchestrate our own demise, continuing to ravage the environment through excessive consumption, pollution and unbridled population growth.

While the preacher's forecast was delusional, based on religious conviction and self-importance, the assumption that man can continue to plunder the natural environment without consequence is equally short-sighted. We may have no control over asteroids and supervolcanoes but we can eliminate human behaviour that will lead to our own, untimely extinction.