The end of us
From the mighty Tyrannosaurs rex to the itty-bitty Tobias’ caddisfly, 98% of all species ever to have existed on Earth are now extinct. Whilst it seems unthinkable that humanity is no different to our doomed predecessors, our days are probably numbered too. So, how might humanity meet its end? Let me count the ways …
Firstly, and this isn’t so bad, humans may just evolve into something else. You might think that, with all of our medicine and technology, there is no longer any driving force (selection pressure) for the process, but scientists are still recording subtle changes in human biology such as the lengthening of the female reproductive period. There are also arguments that advanced civilisation is accelerating evolution by allowing a huge global population. Amongst other things, this large population means it’s more likely that some of us may be able to adapt to any dramatic changes in our future environment. Realistically, however, a group of humans truly evolving into something else would require interbreeding between different regions to cease for tens of thousands of years, so it seems pretty unlikely.
Another potential conclusion could come in the form of an asteroid strike. It’s a widely accepted that the sudden demise of the dinosaurs was due to such an impact. Scientists believe a 10 – 15km space rock struck the Earth at Chicxulub on Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula at the end of the Cretaceous period. It’s thought that the resultant dust cloud plunged the planet into darkness and caused a lengthy, global winter killing off the dinosaurs as well as many other creatures. If such an asteroid was found to be on collision course for the Earth any time soon, there really wouldn’t be much we could do about it.
A global pandemic might finish us off. In the past, outbreaks such as the Black Death have resulted in the demise of millions. Any disease that was going to level humanity would have to be pretty special though because, in a given population, there are usually some individuals who display a natural immunity.
From nuclear war to extreme climate change, there really are many other hypothetical scenarios that would result in a human free world. There might be a sense that we humans can always rely on our ingenuity save ourselves, but sadly there is one event that would be completely unavoidable. The so-called Big Crunch; the theoretical end of the entire universe. The reverse of the Big Bang, Big Crunch theory proposes that eventually the expansion of the universe will stop and the universe will begin to re-collapse on itself. This would obliterate absolutely everything (yes, even cockroaches) and possibly result in another Big Bang. There truly would be no escape.