What factors affect civilization

Humanity has a ten percent chance of survival

Statistical calculations by scientists only give us a few decades until the apocalypse of mankind

We are dancing on the volcano, the apocalypse for humans is approaching if we continue like this. This is not what supporters of Extinction Rebellion (XR) or Fridays for Future say, but the scientists Mauro Bologna from the Departamento de Ingeniería Eléctrica-Electrónica, Universidad de Tarapacá in Chile and Gerardo Aquino from the Alan Turing Institute in London in the article Deforestation and world population sustainability : a quantitative analysis that appeared in Nature's Scientific Reports. Of the many factors that influence climate, you have examined one of the most important, namely the consequences of human deforestation. Before the emergence of human cultures, forests covered 60 million square kilometers of the earth's surface, now there are only 40 million - and the forest continues to shrink.

Trees store CO2, produce oxygen, are important for the preservation of the soil and the water cycle: "Trees and forests are our best atmospheric cleaners and, given the crucial role they play in the terrestrial ecosystem, it is highly unlikely that many species will survive including ours, without introducing them to earth, "the authors write.

Based on this assumption, they have statistically examined the interaction between forests and humans with regard to human survival and further technical development, if deforestation continues as before. And they make it clear right from the start that they are not optimistic and expect a "catastrophic collapse". They combine the probability of survival with the technical ability to exploit the energy resources of the solar system and to be able to spread within it. Technical progress can be judged by the amount of energy a civilization can use.

Every year people deforest an average of 200,000 square kilometers. If it continued like this, there would be no more forests in 100 or 200 years, albeit on the assumption that deforestation is uniform everywhere. The climatic consequences would, however, be felt much earlier, especially if central forests like in Amazonia disappear, which has just accelerated again. As the temperature increases, more forest fires can occur, such as in Siberia.

"A few decades until an irreversible collapse of our civilization"

Their model is based on the development of the people on Easter Island (Rapa Nui), who combined their technical progress with an intensification of agriculture and deforestation, as Jared Diamond pointed out, which could ultimately have led to the collapse of culture. The earth is comparable to Easter Island in the middle of the Pacific and thousands of kilometers away from the nearest mainland, at least for the next few decades people will not be able to leave it.

How likely it is that mankind will invent techniques to prevent ecological collapse or to emigrate to another planet depends on when the population has reached a maximum associated with deforestation, after which a conflict-ridden shrinkage or a Extinction of humanity is to take place. The maximum would be the point at which there is no more return, because then with advanced deforestation, people can no longer sustain it.

As you can see, the authors play with many probabilities and assumptions, based on the forest cover of the earth before human culture, as it were, as a zero point. Depending on the initial data, according to the two scientists, we could be before the turning point in 22 or 170 years, and we probably still had 20-40 years.

In the optimistic scenario, the probability is only 10 percent that mankind will survive if global population growth and resource consumption continue as before: "We have a few decades until an irreversible collapse of our civilization. What makes the situation even worse, Let us reiterate that it is not realistic that the shrinking population in a situation of environmental degradation is not chaotic and well-ordered. "

Not enough to prophesy the imminent demise of civilization, since no emigration to other planets will be possible in the short time, the two authors believe that they have a standard for all cultures. A society has about two centuries after it has reached its fully developed industrial age to spread in the respective solar systems.

But the message is that only civilizations that are not entirely subordinate to economics can survive: "Only civilizations that are able to switch from an economic society to a kind of 'cultural' society in time will survive." But they do not reveal what this cultural society might look like.

What is clear, however, is that capitalism, at least as long as natural resources do not have to be bought dearly, will predictably bring us closer to doom. The space billionaires like Musk, who dream of profitable emigration, have no alternative, but only offer a continuation of the same. (Florian Rötzer)

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