Could human imagination save us from extinction? | Andrew Simms | Environment | The Guardian

By Andrew Simms | July 2, 2015

A solitary blue sea star swims over a dead coral reef – a sign of an entire ecosystem collapsing – in the Indo-Pacific ocean, Bali, Indonesia. Photograph: Poelzer Wolfgang/Alamy

If you wandered around planet Earth 100,000 years ago you would have come across at least half a dozen distinct species, or sub-species, of human. At least one, Homo erectus, centred around East Asia, lasted for nearly two million years. That makes the duration of us, recognisably modern Homo sapiens, at around 200,000 years, seem modest.

It will remain so if Yuval Noah Harari, author of Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind is correct. He suggests on current trends we’ll be lucky to see out the millennium.

Some of those other human species we seem to have absorbed, such as the Neanderthals whose DNA we carry, while others we probably drove to extinction, directly or inadvertently. Scratching for positives you could argue that at least we don’t discriminate over who or what we push over the edge, including ourselves.

Is this, counter-intuitively what we will be remembered for – if there is anything or anyone else to remember us? Not our art, technology or great cities, but our epochal knack for driving others, and possibly ourselves in the process, to extinction?

That we are living through the planet’s sixth great (or not so great) mass extinction event was reinforced again last month. A new paper by scientists from the US and Mexico confirmed that vertebrate species, conservatively, are being lost at a rate up to 100 times faster than the natural background rate.

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Source: Could human imagination save us from extinction? | Andrew Simms | Environment | The Guardian

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