According to the Fermi’s Paradox, the apparent absence of radio communication between technical civilizations can be attributed to their inevitable short-term self-destruction, a consequence of uncontrolled invention of toxic substances, contamination of air, water and land, and construction of deadly weapons. On Earth this includes saturation of the atmosphere by greenhouse gases and production of nuclear weapons.
The most extensive mass extinction event in the history of Earth, represented by the Permian-Triassic boundary 251 million years-ago, involved acidification, oxygen depletion of the oceans and consequent emanations of toxic H2S and CH4, leading to a loss of some 57% of biological families, 83% of genera and 81% of marine species.
If the history of the 21st century is ever written it would report that, while large parts of the planet were becoming uninhabitable, the extreme rate and scale of global warming and migration of climate zones (~100 km per decade), the extent of polar ice melting, ocean warming and acidification, and methane release from permafrost, threatened to develop into one of the most extensive mass extinction events in the geological history of planet Earth.
As concentrations of atmospheric greenhouse gases exceed 500 ppm CO2-equivalents, consistent with global warming of more than 4oC, climate scientists have been replaced by an army of economists and politicians mostly ignorant of the physics and chemistry of the atmosphere but quantifying the cost-benefit economies of mitigation like corner grocers. Proposed mitigation action were mostly restricted to reduced emissions, neglecting the amplifying climate feedbacks and tipping points projected by leading climate scientists.
During the 20th and 21st centuries, with the rise of Fascism and climate change denial, many humans remained preoccupied by brutal wars and propagation of suicidal weapons, entertained by sport circuses, celebrity cults, frivolous showbiz, gratuitous hubris, homicide movies, canned laughter and the share market. While large parts of the planet were becoming uninhabitable, billionaire cowboys kept throwing $billions into space. Small pockets of humanity survived in remote regions of the planet among the wretched of the Earth, strafed by drones by the forces of empires.
Climate change was not the only threat hanging over the head of humanity and nature. As nations kept building atomic bombs, with time the probability of a nuclear war was increasing exponentially. At the root of the MAD (mutual assured destruction) policy, or omnicide, resides the deep tribalism and herd mentality of the species, hinging on race, religion, ideology, territorial claims and the concept of an “enemy” perpetrated by demagogues and warmongers, leading to an Orwellian 1984 world where “Oceania has always been at war with East-Asia” as in the current “forever wars“. Cover-ups, double standards and blatant lies prevailed as in George Orwell’s 1984 world. At the core of superpower conflict between the Anglo-Saxon world and the Slavic or Chinese worlds are false claims of moral superiority, but in reality naked grabs for power.
“Today, every inhabitant of this planet must contemplate the day when this planet may no longer be habitable. Every man, woman and child lives under a nuclear sword of Damocles, capable of being cut at any moment by accident, or miscalculation, or by madness”. John F. Kennedy
At the very core of human conscience is its mythological nature, a mindset closely related to the mastery of fire. For longer than one million years, Homo erectus, perched at campfire, watching the flickering flames, has grown its insights and imagination, identifying mortality, developing a fear of death, dreaming of omniscience and omnipotence, aspiring for eternal life.
As civilization developed in the Neolithic these sentiments drove humans to construct pyramids to enshrine immortality, undertake human sacrifice, to perpetrate death in order to appease the gods, expressed in modern times through world wars, as expressed by Albert Einstein: “The splitting of the atom has changed everything bar man’s way of thinking and thus we drift into unparalleled catastrophes”
We have entered the age of consequences, masked by the 24 hours news cycle that can only portray transient events but rarely exposes the Orwellian lies which underlie the complicity of the powers-that-be. For, just as individuals can be plagued by insanity, so can groups of people, as in the Jonestown massacre, or in Nazi Germany, where a nation or a species slide blindly into war and mass suicide, creating systems that saturate the atmosphere with carbon gases and proliferate nuclear weapons, a terrestrial confirmation of Fermi’s Paradox.
A/Prof Andrew Glikson, Earth and paleoclimate scientist