By: Nick Swafford
I’ve got to be honest– I don’t know if I like the way the world is heading. I’ve read enough dystopian novels to know that Earth is on the edge of a hypothetical cliff, about to plummet into a dark abyss of misery. At least that is what all the books have made it seem like, and the funny thing about this is that don’t think they are too far off.
I mean, of course I don’t believe there will be a zombie uprising like in The Walking Dead or intergalactic space battles fighting for government control like in Star Wars; rather, I believe that the greatest threat to humanity is humanity. Humanity loves to be blissfully ignorant about how we affect our environment and Earth. Let’s start with global warming. Ever since the 1800s, we have been affecting our global temperature, but it wasn’t until around 1945 when we really started to screw up. Since 1945, there has been a drastic upward trend in temperature that has zero signs of slowing down, which can be seen in this graph by the NOAA (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration):
Over the next century, NASA expects the temperature to rise about ten degrees Fahrenheit. Sure, ten degrees isn’t a lot in terms of temperature, but its effects will be substantial and ten degrees makes a huge difference. Our ice caps are already melting; if it was ten degrees warmer, they’d be as good as gone; along with it, all the wildlife that live there. NASA also states that precipitation patterns will change. In the US, precipitation during the winter and spring seasons will increase drastically, resulting in more floods and more severe storms. However, in the southwest part of the US, rainfall will continue to get rarer and rarer, which will make the common droughts they experience even worse, having tremendous effects on the economy and how the region functions. Not only that, but by 2100, sea levels will rise as much as 4 feet, which will have detrimental effects on our coasts.
All of that was just global warming. Let’s move on to our second issue: fossil fuels. We use coal for essentially everything, and we only have so much of it left to use. Now, I’m sure all of you have already heard enough about the detrimental effects that burning fossil fuels have on the environment, so I’m going straight to what will happen once we run out of it. According to Ecotricity.co.uk, we are going to run out of fossil fuels in this century if we don’t make a change. They seperated fossil fuels into three categories: oil, gas, and coal. They researched when each one would run out based on the reserves we know of, which can be seen in this graph:
Their predictions show that oil will run out in 2052, gas will run out in 2060, and coal will run out in 2088. This gives us a deadline for when things start going from bad to worse. Fossil fuels are essentially a low hanging fruit, and once we eat all that fruit, what will happen? For a time, there will be an energy crisis, and the governments of the world will scramble for a solution. I like to think we will turn to reusable energy like solar power and wind, but that probably won’t be the case. Rather, we will turn to cheap nuclear energy, which poses its own problems. With the population increase that will be present by then, there will have to be 4,000 to 5,000 nuclear power plants worldwide to sustain power.
Even having such a large amount of nuclear power plants won’t fix the issue. We use fossil fuels for transportation and trade, but the nuclear plants only give electricity, which causes an issue. Car transportation probably won’t have any issue transferring to electric powered cars and such, but the real issue lies in planes and boats. The mass amount of exports and imports we send to and from countries on planes and boats won’t be able to keep being transported by such means because energy-based vehicles lack the power to make such large and heavy trips. As a result, economies all around the globe will nose dive from the lack of trade.
And keep in mind, while all these economies are crashing, they are still building nuclear power plants that cost five to six million dollars each to build. Multiply six million by 5,000 and you get a whopping total of about 30 trillion dollars. Think of all that nuclear waste.
We would also have to say goodbye to a lot of the foods we eat today. Because of the collapse of the economies and transportation systems, we will have to rely on locally produced food. To get closer to food sources, cities would lose a ton of people due to a mass migration to farms.
With the horrible things I’ve mentioned, you might find it hard to believe there’s a bright side to any of this—but there is. Garbage production would drop to very low levels, water pollution will be at its lowest in hundreds of years, wildlife populations would increase due to lack of human interference, and the loss of fossil fuels would force humanity to come together to reinvent and innovate how we live. However, maybe we shouldn’t wait for the world to fall to come together. Why can’t we do it now?