Humankind as Plague

Big Think‘s Tauriq Moosa revisits Alan Weisman’s World Without People. Star Trek fans might recall Q’s first trial of humanity on The Next Generation. Moosa asks: how could we justify human existence to such aliens if evidence for our value is limited?

Are We a Plague? Well, That Depends

Climate change and imported disease may have killed them, but most paleontologists accept the theory Martin advocates: “When people got out of Africa and Asia and reached other parts of the world, all hell broke loose.” He is convinced that people were responsible for the mass extinctions because they commenced with human arrival everywhere: first, in Australia 60,000 years ago, then mainland America 13,000 years ago, followed by the Caribbean islands 6,000 years ago, and Madagascar 2,000 years ago. — Alan Weisman

As Moosa explains, writers, scientists, and philosophers have been exploring whether humanity is Earth’s boon or threat or some indeterminate combination of both for several centuries. Their question remains unsettled, though: there’s still too much uncertainty about environmental stability, population levels, geo-cycles that are beyond human interference, and the impacts of our technologies on life and the systems that supports life.

Check out the World Without Us and Scientific American websites for some engaging graphics, like New York City from Day 2 through Ice Age.

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