Today’s Wonder of the Day was inspired by Ryan. Ryan Wonders, “Will the human race ever go extinct?” Thanks for WONDERing with us, Ryan!
Save the whales! Protect the pandas! Such cries are common among conservationists looking to raise awareness and inspire protection of a variety of vulnerable and endangered species.
If you love animals, it's easy to identify with these causes. After all, who would want pandas or whales to go extinct? Since they're animals, they can't exactly organize themselves to advocate for their survival.
While it's important to support conservation efforts for vulnerable and endangered animals, there's another species you may want to pay attention to: Homo sapiens. That's right! Human beings…you and me.
Sound far-fetched? With over seven billion human beings on Earth today, the thought of humans ever becoming extinct might seem a little mind-boggling.
There are some scientists, though, who worry that it's a distinct possibility. Let's take a closer look at some of the things they're worried about.
From a purely scientific standpoint, experts point out that most mammalian species survive about one million years before going extinct. Scientists believe the Neanderthals survived for about 300,000 years, while human ancestors Homo erectus survived for approximately 1.6 million years.
Modern human beings obviously have a great chance to beat those odds, given our intelligence and advances in technology. Scientists estimate modern humans have been around about 200,000 years, so that should give us at least another 800,000 years.
Other scientists believe we could be here another two million years…or even millions of years longer. On the other hand, some scientists believe we could be gone in the next 100 years. What do they think could do us in?
Those who hold a dim view of humanity's future point to all kinds of threats: nuclear war, a global pandemic (such as a deadly virus), asteroids and meteoroids crashing into Earth, biological weapons, climate change, overpopulation, and the list goes on and on.
Could any of these things really wipe out all of humanity? Maybe. Scientists believe that there have been five previous mass extinctions throughout Earth's history, caused by things such as climate change, volcanoes, and meteoroids that have crashed into Earth.
Some scientists believe we may actually be in the midst of a sixth mass extinction right now. Why? Current extinction rates are, by some estimates, 100 times higher than normal right now. With species disappearing faster than usual, our current rates of climate change, overpopulation, deforestation, and pollution could be pushing us toward the brink of another mass extinction.
So is there any hope for human beings? Of course, there is! Human beings number in the billions. We are spread all over Earth in all sorts of habitats and climates. We are extremely intelligent and adaptable.
Even in the face of various threats, it would take a lot to wipe us out completely, especially if we manage to establish colonies on other planets one day. Even if human beings become extinct one day, it won't be in your lifetime!