In AD 79, Mount Vesuvius erupted, ejecting molten rock, pulverized pumice and hot ash at 1.5 million tons per second, ultimately releasing 100,000 times the thermal energy of the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Pompeii, Herculaneum and several Roman cities were obliterated and buried, only to be discovered in 1748 and 1709 respectively, nearly 1700 years later and long after the collapse of the Roman empire.
The Sahara desert, largest desert in the world, spans an area of 9.2 million square kilometres. If the Sahara is a country, it would be the 5th largest in the world, below USA and above Brazil. Yet this desert used to be a lush green zone called the Green Sahara, comprising of expansive grasslands and vegetations, of rivers and lakes. This is caused by the slow shifts in Earth’s orbital parameters, affecting the precession of the equinoxes, obliquity, and eccentricity and consequently affecting the rainfall in the area. Approximately every 20,000 years, the Sahara alternates between the desert version and the green version.
Humanity has been ruled by violence throughout history. The thrones of the kings, while proclaimed to be the will of the divine, had been fought hard and often to the death by siblings. Countries trample on the losers as they conquer each other, giving birth to many powerful empires and seeing the collapse of many great civilisations. He who has the ability and the will to exercise violence is feared. From the school bully to the mafia, from the intelligence service to the ones holding the nuclear bombs, the capacity for violence determines how much one is able to impose their will and consequently to plunder others of their wealth, lives and territory.
Yet there is another force with the ability, though not the will, to exercise violence on a scale unmatched by any other powers on Earth – nature. In the face of nature, it has been proven no matter how mighty our army is or how much wealth we control, we are insignificant. The famed Roman Legions were unable to stop Mount Vesuvius. No amount of gold can bribe the rainfall to increase its volume in the Sahara.
Global warming, as it was originally called but later changed to ‘climate change’ during George Bush’s presidential campaign in order to reduce the impact of the words, has long ago been called out as a warning to the world. Deforestation on a mass scale not only affects the carbon cycle, but also kills the ecology and cripple the heat absorption ability of our Earth. Ice caps in the North and South poles melt, increasing the water level. Approximately 80 million barrels of oil is produced in a day around the world, causing many small earthquakes to happen with this extreme scale of production. Mankind has many other activities which caused harm to the environment, of which we have no intent to make good.
Around the world, we have seen droughts in Europe and China, floods in Pakistan, and other natural disasters happening as nature pays back what is due. Just like our body will eventually wear down if we do not take care of it, the balance of nature will also be broken by human actions.
One misconception people have is that the Earth is dying. No, the Earth will not die. The Earth had a violent history of extreme volcanic activity, of extreme cold in the Ice Age and had survived 5 mass extinctions throughout its history. From the early anthropods to the dinosaurs, from exotic plants to the marine lives, many species which roamed and dominated the Earth were no more. Nature had killed them all, and had done a reset each time. We cannot stop that from happening to us if we had lived long enough, but we certainly are speeding our own death.
The Earth will not die, we will, just like the many other species before us. And once again, it will reset and repeat the cycle again and again until it finally becomes unable to support life 1 billion years later and gets totally swallowed up by the Sun in another few more. People in our generation will probably die without seeing the world end, but our descendants probably will not live such a good life. It will only get worse with each passing generation.
In the end, for all that we have earned, schemed, stole and plundered, mankind will eventually leave nothing behind for its descendants. With violence we will meet our end as a species.