Musings on the End of All Life

So I’ve spent most of my adult life thinking about the nature of things, where we all came from and where we’re all going. As a result of this, I’ve become somewhat fixated on precisely how, where and when all things human will come to an end. You see we as a people have been living as if there is no end to the surface of the planet, no end to natural resources and no reason to discontinue our seemingly endless population explosion here on Earth. Even our economic philosophy is one of growth for the sake of growth. There is only one other process we know of that operates on growth for the sake of growth and that is cancer. Humanity is a cancer on the face of the planet now. Large cat populations are on the brink of extinction. We’re heating the planet up literally to a melting point, which will soon result in the death of all polar life as we know it. In fact, we’ve forced almost all of what remains of nature into precious “reserves” which are being poached to death, sold off little by little for human housing development or as temporary farming land to feed our burgeoning population. We just celebrated our 7 billionth human and I will live to see 9 billion most likely. You know how many people there were when I was born? 3 Billion. So humanity has increased geometrically since I was born and there seems to be no end to it. What horrifies me is how casually governments and science are taking this. We can solve anything with technology they say! My question is, how many people is too many people? If population growth continues at this rate, my sons will see either 27 billion or 81 billion people depending on whether you believe humanity triples every 45 years or grows by X squared. Regardless, if our common consciousness doesn’t come to the logical conclusion that human growth HAS to stop at some point and even reverse itself, there won’t be enough physical space on the surface of the Earth for each of us to stand on. We’re already looking at clean, drinking water shortages all over the world, where will we be with 9 BILLION people?? The Dead Sea is ironically dying, falling by a meter in depth every year because the water that used to feed it is gone – siphoned off for farming in arid regions. The Aral Sea in Russia is now, for all intents and purposes, gone due to human activity. That’s right, we killed an entire Sea in my lifetime. Does any of this scare the daylights out of YOU?! It scares the snot out of me! I really fear for my children’s future. I’ll skip the petroleum rant for now…but do read on regardless of whether you hate spoilers or not. Oil is a finite resource and we’ve already passed peak oil – we will all live to see the end of oil and, as of today, no reasonable replacement has been revealed. My point in all of this? The huge mystery of the end of man I used to ponder has apparently been solved. We will end ourselves due to greed, ignorance and failure to act on obvious issues with our present growth and consumption rates.

Now, assuming we do survive our own folly, how might things end? Well the most obvious cause of our demise at this time is our failing magnetic field. Nova did a special on it recently that went largely unnoticed but it caught my attention. Mars lost its magnetic field billions of years ago and it therefore exists with virtually no atmosphere and no life on the surface, all of it literally wiped away by solar wind. Similarly, our own magnetic field is beginning to fail and science has yet to offer an explanation or hope for that matter. The time table on the collapse reaching critical mass is 500 years. At that point, unless the field “flips” or some other miraculous event occurs, solar wind will rip away our own atmosphere and destroy the surface of our own world. It’s a dirty little secret that no one is talking about because there really isn’t anything we can do about it. This also scares the hell out of me.

If humanity does cease to be a cancer on the face of the Earth and our magnetic field manages to heal itself, our sun is going to begin expanding towards its red giant phase and cause our atmosphere to heat so dramatically it will cook our planet’s surface. This will occur in about 1 billion years. Now that’s a long time but since the human race seems to believe it’s going to live forever, it might be prudent to begin our expedition into outer space and look for a replacement planet NOW. Especially since we apparently can’t travel faster than the speed of light and it will take about half that long just to find another habitable planet, develop the technology to reach it and actually get there (if we’re very, very lucky). This does not scare me so much. I have to believe at some point we’ll get off this rock and out into the rest of the universe, whether the cause be overpopulation, collapse of the magnetic field or the end of our sun’s life. Otherwise we really are all doomed.

Lastly, if we do make it through human made Armageddon, the collapse of the Earth’s magnetic field and the expansion of our sun to a red giant, Nova once again has shown us where all things (not just us) will end. You see our universe is continuing to expand at an incredible rate. Consequently, everything in space is not only continuing to move outwards but it’s doing it at unimaginably increasing speed. It’s physics 101, as bodies move farther away from each other, gravity weakens. At some point in time even I can’t imagine right now, all matter will fly apart into tiny, spinning particles that just float around in our never ending, ever expanding universe and life, all life, will cease to exist. I’m actually at peace with this. Our entire universe sadly tends towards increasing entropy which means universal failure is built into the system, all things will end because all things must end. It’s a metaphor for our own lives….we are born, age and die because that is the nature of all things – even the universe itself. That said, I would be more comforted if I knew we were going to make the most of the time we have, get out into the universe and explore as much of it as we can before the end of time comes.

Where was I going with all of this? I’m distraught over our treatment of this precious and possibly unique planet. Unless things change, the world will end in the fires of a world war over natural resources due to overpopulation and all of that can easily be prevented. I’m concerned that we already know of a gargantuan, looming problem in the form of a failing magnetic field and no one is even talking about it. Never mind spending 500 million years trying to escape the red giant our sun will become, what about a planet with no magnetic field?! We need to develop the technology to deliver man to other, habitable worlds NOW, not later! Otherwise we might only survive another miniscule 500 years and that’s really depressing. Lastly, the only way we’re ever going to accomplish any of this is to end our addiction to fossil fuels. Oil won’t get us into deep space, that method of propulsion is ridiculously limited. Oil won’t feed our people in 200 years, never mind when we might need to escape this place. Oil won’t create new drinking water when we’ve overused what we have, it’s only escalating the problem we have now. Oil is ancient, oil is obsolete, oil is almost gone. We MUST MOVE ON TO THE NEXT PHASE OF OUR HUMAN DEVELOPMENT and oil cannot be a part of that. We’re better than that and smarter than that so please, do whatever you can in your daily life to end our dependence on it. Otherwise the very best we can hope for is to make it through a little less than 1 billion years and then watch the surface of our planet get steamed to death and that would be a very disappointing legacy to the life of mankind. I’d like to think we’re going to make it to the farthest reaches of space and be around long enough to witness the miraculous conversion of all things to basic particles and breathe the very last breath of the universe with it. That’s my dream for the end of all things. Time will tell if that dream comes true.

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