Humanity’s Biggest Threats Are Self Created

Humanity is facing several global challenges threatening its own survival. They are not the usual planetary apocalyptic suspects. Species have come and gone on the planet earth for millions of years. This is nothing new according to science. Their extinction was a result of natural catastrophes like asteroid collisions, polar shifts or massive solar flares. In contrast, modern man has only inhabited the planet for a relatively short period of time measured in thousands of years. The current threat, however, are not natural occurrences, but are unique in the history of the planet in that they are self-inflicted by one of its inhabiting species. As signs of our immaturity as an “intelligent” species, the threats to humanity are manmade, self created through lack of awareness and general ignorance combined with insatiable greed and self-perpetuating due to a fear of change and stubbornness to change as a result of egotistical self righteousness.Most threats have been created by man’s advances in technology, combined with a lack of understanding in how to use them wisely. While it can be depressing to talk or write about them, they still need to be addressed. Far too long they have been ignored as if humanity intentionally refuses to acknowledge their existence, with consequences that now threaten humanity’s existence. Far too long people have pretended they are not problems allowing them to become even more insurmountable as challenges which we will eventually have to face together. These challenges are environmental, ecological, chemical, biological and military in nature.

Armed conflict is not new to humanity. The world has always threatened itself with military conflict. The last century was the most violent on record witnessing the killing of millions upon millions of people through many wars. Unfortunately, technology has advanced to where war does not need to be fought with clubs, spears or lead bullets anymore. We have developed weapons of mass destruction. The current problem is that while we have advanced in our technology to kill each other, we have not advanced in our ability to get along with each other.

While the nuclear threat has been around for decades, nuclear technology has continued to spread around the world. The possibility that these weapons will get into the wrong hands of desperate people threatening a global catastrophe has increased. Even for those people who are not desperate, humanity has developed new technologies like predator drones that remove human to human contact in the killing of another human being. The killing process has become more “sterilized.” It is risky when we trained a generation of our young on virtual reality videos where there is no difference to playing a game to destroy targets and killing someone in real life. They are destined to be humanity’s leaders of tomorrow. With this conditioning, they will be more willing and mentally and emotionally able to press the “nuclear button.”

By taking the horrors of war out of war for our children to experience, we have removed our own humanity from the conflict equation with the potential for grave consequences to ourselves and our planet. It would be better if every person sitting behind a consol of a robotic killing machine or guarding the button of a nuclear missile had to personally witness one of their weapons strike. They could stand on the sidelines watching the missile hit, blowing apart the targets (humans). They could watch and physically experience the crying and wailing of the relatives of those killed and witness children growing up alone. While this alone will not stop war, it will remind us all and most importantly teach our children, of its horrors and why we should always strive for peace.

Another threat is ecological. Ecologically, the world is consuming itself out of existence. Its rate of resource consumption combined with its growing population has exceeded the planet’s ability to regenerate itself. It is not just fossil fuels that we are running out of, but also healthy top soils and farmland capable of generating life sustaining food. Clean water is becoming rare and has evolved into a financial commodity to be privatized rather than a naturally available basic right of life. Natural food chains are collapsing on land and in the oceans as animals are over harvested to feed a growing population. While chemicals can be added to our soil, our water and animals, to temporarily increase production to compensate for failing ecosystems, the lack of attention to the quality of what we put into our bodies is obvious. The problem is not just one of quantity, but of quality to support healthy life.

Environmentally, global warming is generally accepted as a global threat. Some still disregard the manmade influences of it, stating that climate change is simply a natural occurrence. Even if they are correct in that the earth is going through a natural cycle, they ignore the obvious question as to what happens when manmade green house gases are added on top of one of the earth’s natural climatological cycles. This would be new territory for both humans and the earth where manmade effects are combined with natural effects. Regardless of how devastating the changes will be to our species, it is still primitive to expect no consequences upon our life quality as we fill our atmosphere with greenhouse gases. Our atmosphere has limited capacity. It is the ceiling of our earth home and is finite in size. It is insane to think we can keep filling up our home with smoke and believe it will not eventually have a negative impact.

Global climate change or warming is also having enormous impacts on ecosystems.  The melting of the artic ice and the devastation on mamal habitat is perhaps the most visible evidence of this.  But much less observable is the effect it is having on ocean acidification.  The higher carbon dioxide levels are increasing the levels of carbonic acid in the oceans which is making it more difficult for coral reefs to assimilate calcium.  This is destroying the reefs and the oceanic food chain that is dependent upon them.

While global warming continues to be debated, global dimming caused by increased atmospheric particulates is almost never mentioned. While receiving less sunlight may appear fortuitous due to global warming, its long term effects are detrimental to ecosystems which are dependent upon sunlight for energy. Protective ozone layers continue to erode exposing the earth to more deadly radiation. While many who are concerned focus on these environmental threats, almost no one considers the world’s oxygen generation capacity. Tropical rain forests continue to decline despite some success to preserve isolated tracts for creating a safe haven for other species. While species preservation is essential, virtually no research has been done to monitor the world’s oxygen levels and generation capacities based on types and ages of plants. What is the amount of oxygen a mature tree generates as compared to a younger tree that puts more energy into growing? Even if new trees are planted to compensate for deforestation, the oxygen generation capacity may take hundreds of years to recover. Plants and animals exist symbiotically with plants giving off oxygen and needing carbon dioxide and animals giving off carbon dioxide and needing oxygen. It is not sustainable when animals continue to increase in population and plants continue to decrease in population.

Chemically, the world continues to release thousands of chemicals into the environment with little concern and knowledge as to the long term effects on life. In some cases, even if the harmful effects are known, the chemical is still used for economic reasons such as it would be too costly to use something else. These chemicals can cause a disease like cancer which continues to increase and is now the world’s costliest disease. We try to cure it through treatments using new pharmaceutical drugs or chemicals. As we ingest these drugs, we urinate and defecate the drugs into the water supply where there are no treatment plants capable of taking out the minute concentrations of chemicals. With each passing year, the environment, food supply and our bodies become more contaminated with many different intermixed drugs and chemicals. It is not life sustainable.

Biologically, we have over prescribed the use of antibiotics for not only humans, but in livestock. Livestock manure has been shown to contain billions of antibiotic resistant bacteria which are released back into the environment. Humans, racing to stay ahead of the evolving bacteria, are losing ground as more disease resistant strains are emerging. Staff infections are now a leading cause of death in hospitals, supposedly our most sterile environments. Antibiotics seem useless against some strains of pneumonia. Any year from now, a super resistant and contagious strand could appear and spread causing massive casualties worldwide. Or even more deadly than an isolated nuclear incident, desperate people could unleash manmade pathogens in biological warfare that could wipe out the entire planet. As corporations move their biological research facilities in countries all over the world in search of cheaper labor, the potential risks of biological leaks occurring has increased.

Recently, we entered a new biological age of genetic modification. GMO’s or genetically modified organisms have quickly emerged as a new technology to solve the world’s problems with little concern or thought on the long term consequences on ecosystems. Nearly the entire industry focus has been on increasing quantities and size of plants and animals with little or no attention on quality and long term biological consequences. For example, accidentally releasing GMO salmon into nature over time could destroy native species that mature more slowing and will not be able to compete to survive. This will have enormous effects on food chains in ways that we cannot even imagine because we do not fully understand how all species interrelate in bio and eco -systems. We are basically rolling the dice with our future, where the stakes are much more than some company risking an investment to make more profit. GMO plants have already been released into the environment and are spreading rapidly wiping out native species. Some are herbicide and pesticide resistant supposedly to give a growing advantage over other species. Of course there is no concern for the burden on the soil’s quality and natural ability to support plant growth because it is addressed by adding more chemicals to the soil. As a result the nutritional quality of the world’s food supply continues to decline. But now even after a few short years, some weed species have become herbicide resistant requiring even more toxic chemicals to be released into the environment. Despite this, yields from some genetically modified plants are beginning to decrease. It should be clear to us, that when we use our technology to abruptly interfere with the natural systems that have evolved over millions of years, there are repercussions throughout the system. Bigger plants can exceed a soil’s natural ability to regenerate itself or require more water than is locally available or contaminate other species in ways we have not even considered once they are released into the environment. While it might be economically advantageous for a few years, we may have done enormous harm biologically to our fragile life support system. We must always remember as our planet travels through the space of an enormous universe, all life on the planet is dependent upon just a few inches of topsoil to support life. Immaturely altering it, disturbing a natural balance that took millions of years to evolve, without fully understanding the consequences, is foolish. Our species acts like a small child playing with matches, fascinated with these technologies like new toys, totally unaware of the life threatening dangers.

While we reviewed many different threats, perhaps the most important threat to humanity, because it impacts all others, is spiritual. If there was one underlying reason why our species refuses to act responsibly and is more interested in making short term profits than ensuring the overall well being and advancement of humankind, it is our lack of concern for each other and our environment. Nature on our planet is a not something to be conquered, but something to be cared for. Life is not about a competition against each other to survive, but working together for the advancement of all. Somehow we have lost our values, the higher intentions of life and the joy of living together in community. As said earlier, the threat to human survival is increasing imminent, because through our technologies we have increased our ability to destroy ourselves either by accident or by intention from mass ignorance, greed or from just a handful of disillusioned, desperate people. Unfortunately after hundreds and thousands of years, our religions have failed to provide enough of us with the common values needed to establish a peaceful and sustainable world. This creates a spiritual crisis that must be addressed, for without doing so, will make addressing these other challenges impossible to overcome. The change must start with a desire in the human heart to genuinely care for each other, the planet and all of its life support systems, combined with an honest intellect to accurately and thoroughly evaluate our technologies in terms of both their applications and implications. With a change of heart, we can direct our technologies to more productive endeavors to address the world’s challenges without creating more problems or threatening extinction in the process. We can then begin to evolve into a more advanced species capable of managing and sustaining its own existence without threatening itself or other species in the process.

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