Paul and Anne Erlich were among the earliest of what can be described as the prophets of doom. Back in the early 1970s they were warning that the human population was out of control, and the implications were serious. However, their predictions were not taken seriously, and some of the calamitous events they were forecasting, even more than 40 years later have not taken place.
However, in a recent paper Can a collapse of global civilization be avoided? published this year by the prestigious Royal Society, the Erlichs’ current view of the future of human civilization as we know it seems all too possible.
The real problem, to me, is that the longer disaster on a global scale is delayed, the more likely it is to happen, and the more disastrous it is likely to be.
Back in the early 1970s, there was no internet, and yet now the collapse of the internet would bring about catastrophic disruption, and a breakdown of all manner of infrastructure. A solar storm could knock out satellite communications systems. And my old hobby horse, when a major volcanic event takes place (please note, I write when, not if), if it is of the magnitude of Tambora (or even the much smaller Krakatoa), it could wipe out most of the world’s harvest in the northern hemisphere.
The ramifications of that are immense: it would lead to starvation and disease on an unprecedented scale. And finally, the Japanese nuclear accident at Fukushima in 2011 is not the first serious nuclear accident (remember Three Mile Island and Chernobyl). Nor will it be the last. There are nuclear power plants built in active volcanic regions in the Philippines, for instance.
And then there is climate change. But compared with the above threats, this could pale into utter insignificance. Let’s face it; we are in a mess.
At times, what the World Land Trust does may seem like trying to empty the Atlantic Ocean with a bucket, but at least we are doing something.
And, should such a disaster occur, let us hope that the nature reserves, which WLT has helped create across the world (and continues to create thanks to our supporters’ donations), will act as a gene bank for the future.