Humans May Be Causing the Sixth Great Extinction in Half a Billion Years

My nightmare is not so extravagant. The locus don't eat the crops, we do. Then we consume every other resource available until nothing is left.

I was in 10th grade when the original Matrix came out, I remember being so angry with the speech agent Smith gave to Morpheus, that humans were a virus, one that consumes all resources and destroys the environment rather than living in harmony with it - (speech is here.)

Of course, even at that young age I knew about environmental catastrophes and the eradication of species caused by humans, but I thought it was because of poor education and the faulty science of previous eras. I felt that now, in the future, with science informing us of which behaviors damaged our only home, earth, combined with better education, we would overcome these problems. That agent Smith was wrong because he was examining human behavior across the 19th-20th centuries.

But here we are now, 15 years after I walked out of that theater, and things are not getting better. As the article states:

Forty-one percent of amphibians, 26 percent of mammals, and 13 percent of birds face the threat of extinction, according to an analysis conducted by the journal Nature. Over hunting, habitat destruction, and climate change are propelling the die-offs, as well as the spread of invasive species and disease.

When I was in elementary school, we were correctly informed that human pollution and behaviors were harming the world, killing off species and damaging our environment in ways it may never recover from. We knew this to be true and it was true. Well into my 30s now, with the over politicization of everything on earth via 24 hour news and well, the very internet itself (which separates people into tribes where they find only those they agree with), a good deal of people no longer believe humans are doing any damage. Either that or profits/personal concerns override all. "Hey, that rhino horn is magic ED medicine, kill all the rhinos and get it to me." In the US, I'm frankly not sure what fuels climate change denial? Inability to admit guilt in the role we've all played? Conception that "god" controls and guides all, and human decisions don't matter? Outright greed i.e. coal is profitable so fuck not burning coal? All of the above?

In any event, my childhood was filled with hopeful education. We had hurt our home world, but now, due to scientific advancements, we knew why and in the future we'd either fix it or at least halt the damage. Instead, it's gotten worse, climate change continues marching on, record levels of CO2 are in the atmosphere and we are on track to cause this (again, from the article):

The worst-case scenario in the Nature analysis predicts that 75 percent of life on Earth may become extinct by 2200. n that scenario, the paper assumes there are 5 million species on Earth and extinction occurs at a steady rate of 0.72 percent of species a year.

It seems humans, with all their terrible flaws, being "right" or feeling "good" about things trumps addressing the reality of situations, greed, access to power, selfishness etc. have driven us to this point. There are good people to be certain, many who do the right thing in a variety of fields, but these people are losing the war or perhaps have already lost it.

So I return to agent Smith. I once disagreed with his speech, "those were the old humans" I thought, this generation was going to fix it all, turns out we didn't. We indeed appear to be the virus, but there is no sentient AI to the level of the Matrix out to stop us (yet), instead we are continuing down this destructive path unabated.

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