Scientists have warned that wildlife is in catastrophic decline, with populations falling by two thirds in the last fifty years. We are in the sixth period of mass extinction that the earth has witnessed but the blame for this one can be placed firmly at humanity’s door. It won’t be long before we humans have achieved our objective of eradicating all large non-domesticated mammals and tamed every habitable piece of ground under the plough or concrete. The oceans are fairing no better, stripped by over-consumption or shrouded in plastic waste.
Once we have sucked all the resources out of our little petri-dish it could well be our turn to become extinct. This is the way of all those who rule the earth and there is nothing to suggest that man won’t go the same way. I have heard estimates that we will be lucky to last another thousand years as a species.
What will happen then? We have seen in the aftermath of human made disasters, such as Chernobyl, or during the COVID-19 pandemic, that nature can be resilient and, given a chance, can make a rapid comeback. The problem with extinction though is that all your chances are used up. Dodos will never walk again.
The world will live on long after we have gone, perhaps for another billion years or so and that is plenty of time for whole new ecosystems to come and go. If history, biology and paleontology tells us anything it is that species will evolve to fill the gaps that are vacated by extinction. Some domesticated animals may survive, though many are too dependent upon humans to make it, and will rapidly evolve to occupy the ecological niches they came from.
Other species will emerge from smaller surviving animals. Perhaps the cows of the future will be giant rats or shrews. Weasels, foxes or badgers may evolve to become the apex predators to feed on these wandering herds but then with the soil destroyed it may well be the age of birds. Another bipedal creature could even evolve to take our place.
But we won’t be around to see it as mankind will have paid the ultimate price for its arrogance in the full knowledge that it was our own fault.