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In the Hollywood movie Ice age, The Ice age has started in pre-historic times so the few pre-historic animals and humans set out in search of greener pastures and food. Now imagine if this is not a movie but a reality. Because at the rate at which forests are being destroyed this will soon turn into a reality after a few centuries. But this time it shall not be an ice age but an ocean age or water age. The high temperatures on earth will melt the ice from Antarctica to the Himalayas leading to water level rising in oceans leading to the water age in future. As per scientists the sixth mass extinction has already started on earth.

What has led the earth to such a precarious situation?

In last 100 years we have lost as much forest as had been destroyed in the preceding 9000 years. In another 100 years there may be no rain forest left in the world at the rate humans are destroying it. Humans have basically destroyed 50% of forest that existed in the world in the last 100 years. There are two main reasons for destruction of forests.

One is the human population. Here are some baffling statistics on human population. World population reached one billion in start of 18th century around 1804. The world reached 2 billion in 1927. That means almost 123 years to reach next one billion. But to reach 3 billion the world took only 33 years in 1960. In 2020 world has 7.8 billion people in world. Means in 216 years we reached from 1 billion to almost 8 billion that is eight times the population. Even more baffling is the fact that in 9th century AD we were only  0.25 billion and it doubled to 0.5 billion population only by the 16th century. In 400 years we went from 0.5 billion to 7.8 billion population. If we go at this rate by 2050 we will be 9.7 billion and by 2100 it shall be 16 billion. By 2300 world will be 36.44 billion which is like more than 3 times the population in 2050. (All data taken from UN reports)

Second reason for destruction of forests is the unplanned growth both industrial and agriculture wise. To support this huge population growth, forests are being sacrificed at fast pace across world. From Amazon rain forest to western ghats forest to Aravalli range forests are being cut and destroyed at a very fast pace. About 17% of Amazon forest has been destroyed in last 50 years. From 1990 to 2016 world lost 502,000 (1.3 million square kilometre) of forest(Data Source:  National Geographic).

The biggest challenge for man kind is to ensure this earth lasts inhabitable till 2300 years. In India the effect of destruction of forests is being shown in western ghats and Himalayas. The hills and mountains that stood test of time for millions of years have started disintegrating like a pack of cards in rainy season.

As per NASA study global temperature has increased 1.4 degree Fahrenheit or 0.8 degree celsius since 1880. This is just average temperature across the full globe, the average temperature of certain countries or regions have increased like 3 to 4 degrees. In the continent of Antarctic for example temperatures have increased 3 degree Celsius in last 50 years (BBC and WMO, UN source). In Feb 2020 only Antarctica logged a temperature of 18.3 degree Celsius. In the peak of summer the temperature logged was 17.5 degree celsius during April-May. So in 5 years temperatures have risen 0.8 degree Celsius. (Source BBC and WMO)

Scientists predict that in the next one century all the ice from Himalayas and Hindu Kush region will melt and barren rocks will stare at humans because of rising temperatures. If global temperatures rise by 2 degrees Celsius as predicted than half the Himalayan glaciers would melt  by 2100 less than 79 years from today. Even if the world takes excellent action (which seems unlikely) 36% of glaciers will melt even if we decrease global temperatures to raise by only 1.5 degree Celsius from current temperatures. (BBC and WMO, UN data).

What is the true impact of Himalayan glaciers melting or Antarctica melting at this fast pace? The sea level has increased 6 to 8 inches the last 100 years.  If the current level of global emission from vehicles and industries and households keep happening at today’s level sea level is predicted to rise 26 feet by 2300. (Source The Atlantic, Scientist De Conto and Pollard).  Even if they are off estimate by a few feet and sea raises by 15 or 20 feet you can imagine what catastrophe awaits the world. It will be like the Hollywood movie scene in “Water world” water everywhere. And just like that movie there is no route to escape anywhere because all the land will go under the sea. Not all countries or continents will drown at the same time because some are placed much above sea level than others. But a water age definitely awaits the world in future.

The other great effect of destruction of forest is man animal conflicts as animals will have no place to go or no food available in forests. Already wild animals which shied coming to human habitation in past centuries are giving humans visits in city. Humans have wiped out 60% of mammals, birds, fishes and reptiles since 1970s in the world (Source WWF, UN). Scientist are estimating that even if we stop all activities that destroy nature and forests it will take 5 to 7 million years to recover for natural world. The people who have lived in the last 100 years or 150 years have destroyed nature and animals so much that we have started a sixth mass extinction process. Before the world was destroyed by other planets colliding with earth or ice age etc but first-time human species has played its role in extinction of the world. But all of us can try and slow down the extinction process so that the sea level that is rising will not drown the majority of humans after say 300 years but will drown after 500 years from now. For that humans must first start understanding that we have no other home than mother Earth and if that gets destroyed not only animals and plants but the entire human race will extinct. Till we do not understand the gravity of this issue no effort or action by anyone can reverse the sixth mass extinction process that’s begun already.

Author: Lourdes D’souza is a management executive. She has a degree in Computer Science from St Joseph’s college Bangalore and General Management and Financial Risk Management degree from IIM, Bangalore.

The views, thoughts, and opinions expressed in the article belong solely to the author.


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