A musing on Human Nature

Humans.

Yes, they are smart. They have the brain power to perform feats of engineerings that no other animals are capable of. They manipulate their environment with their tools to sculpt, shape and move the lands to solve their own perceived problems.

And that’s why throughout time, they have always been a thorn on Mother Nature’s side.

They deploy their brain power only to serve their own needs at the expense of the rest of the animal kingdom. They have destroyed habitats, hunted and consumed their fellow animals till extinction and built their ugly, artificial monstrosities they call home on lands that don’t belong to them. They have released toxic chemical compounds into the oceans and the atmosphere, and caused the planet to warm with greenhouse gases. They also exploited natural resources and leave behind scars on the surface of our planet.

Maybe…just maybe… they do all these things not because they have to. Maybe they do all these things so that the other species don’t survive to ensure they remain the dominant ones. And when all the other animals die out and the Earth is unrecognisable, they will turn on each other and probably enjoy it. Maybe all humans are born psychopaths, lacking the love for the living and the appreciation for what nature has given them.

Life on Earth is highly vulnerable to environmental and atmospheric changes

A recent study by a team of scientists showed that nearly 100% of life was wiped out on Earth around 2 billion years ago, about 200 million years after the end of the Great Oxidation Event (GOE). This mass extinction event saw more of Earth’s biosphere killed off than the one that killed off the dinosaurs 65 million years ago. 1

The GOE was a time when Earth’s atmosphere and shallow oceans experienced a rise in oxygen. It started around 2.4 billion years ago and lasted until around 2 billion years ago. Micro-organisms developed the ability photosynthesise and started altering the chemical composition of the atmosphere. This increase in oxygen concentration provided a new opportunity for biological diversification and changes in the nature of chemical interactions between the various geological substrates, the air and water.

Ultimately, the abundance of oxygen-producing micro-organisms saw all the nutrients needed to create oxygen used up. These organisms died off from starvation. This led to a drop in oxygen levels which then killed off the other lifeforms that came to rely on oxygen for survival and reproduction.

And that is just the first atmospheric change event that we know of which caused mass extinctions. Subsequent mass extinctions were also widely believed to be caused by environment or climate changes brought on by geological processes or external factors such as impact events.

Right now, Earth is widely described to be undergoing the sixth mass extinction event right now. 2 Human activities are the reason why millions of species, plants and animals included, are facing extinctions.

Large number of tropical forests are cleared to make way for our cities and other economical activities such as agriculture. On average, an estimated 18 million acres of forest are removed each year.3 Deforestations damage, if not destroy, the habitats in which animals live. Without proper shelter and the lack of food cause them to die off. This reduces our planet’s biodiversity.

Furthermore, deforestations reduce our planet’s ability to capture carbon from the atmosphere. When the fallen trees are left to rot or burnt, the stored carbon within are released back into the atmosphere. For example, the Indonesia forest fires of 2019 have released 360 million tonnes of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, which is more than the carbon dioxide emission by Spain for the whole of 2018. 4

In addition to deforestation, our use of fossil fuels to power our vehicles, machines and electronics also releases carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases such as sulphur dioxide and methane into the atmosphere. All these compounds trap heat close to the planet surface and cause global temperature to rise, which we come to know as global warming.

Global warming has been shown to be the main cause for the increase in the number of severe and intense weather events. 5 There will also be an increase in number of hurricanes, typhoons, cyclones and tornadoes. Such disasters will cost us in terms of lives and resources such as money. Furthermore, rising sea levels will destroy many coastal regions and the communities that depended on it for survival. We will also get either very dry or very wet seasons across the tropical and equatorial regions. Heatwaves will be a common thing.

Food production will be affected with rising temperature. If there is no rain, we can’t grow rice, wheat or corn. Yields will fall dramatically, causing food shortages and exacerbate the divide between the rich and poor. Lifecycle of insects and pollinators such as bees 6, animals and plants will also be affected. Certain crops such as coffee, oranges and apples cannot grow if the climate is not right or when there are no pollinators around. 7

Furthermore, the oxygen levels in our atmosphere could be affected by this climate change.

As described earlier, oxygen did not play a part in the development of life early in Earth’s history until the evolution of organisms that can use carbon dioxide and solar radiation to produce energy and oxygen which we come to know as photosynthesis. This increase in oxygen ultimately led to diversification of life on Earth.

In modern era, we may think that land plants produced most of Earth’s oxygen but it has always been algae and marine microorganisms called phytoplankton that produced more than half of Earth’s oxygen. It is through their combined efforts that life could diversify and spread.

Since the oceans and seas are also warming together with our climate, it is causing a drop in dissolved oxygen levels. 8 The excess carbon dioxide in the atmosphere will also be absorbed by the oceans over time that will cause them to be more acidic. All these environment changes will put extreme pressure on these algae and phytoplankton. If they are unable to adapt fast enough, they will die off en-mass. This will trigger a chain of events that ultimately affect our atmospheric composition and in turn, life on Earth as we know it. By then, it will be too late to do anything.

And who knows, one day we might just need to carry an oxygen tank behind our backs everywhere we go.

Welcome to The Crying Nature

Do you care about nature and all the living things that live in it?

Does the state of our planet’s climate and ecosystem worry you?

The truth is, I don’t know anything about you. But for me, I am definitely concerned with what’s going on around the planet. After all, there’s only one Earth and our survival depends on it being healthy. We have to make the effort to protect it and save whatever we can by deploying our technology, smarts and empathy for future generations.

Now, this isn’t my first blog. I do have a personal blog where I share my life lessons, review things that I bought, write fictions, and put up general ramblings about things in life.

But I felt that it wasn’t good enough. The blog isn’t focused enough and I want to grow more as a writer. I started to think about the things I do care about. Only then could I figure out what I can write about.

Then came the news of the amazonian fires. It was deeply saddening that it had happened, which destroyed hectares after hectares of forest. Admittedly, this incident contributed in part to my depression and I felt like I wasn’t doing anything worthwhile related to environmental causes. Thus, I decided to start this blog which shall focus entirely on wildlife, environmental and climate topics.

Do come back and check out this blog from time to time for new contents.