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Is the Earth really going to die

  1. Feb 22, 2012 #1
    Do you believe that at the rate we are going we will in actuality destroy the earth, or do you believe that the earth is strong enough to counteract the mistakes of human kind?
  2. jcsd
  3. Feb 22, 2012 #2
    I'm sure this will be moderated to some degree, but I'll give it a whirl nonetheless.

    The Earth has "survived" far worse than what is going on now. It may take a few million years to erase, but our legacy will eventually succumb to tectonism.

    A better question might be, will we survive our own mistakes or will they be our undoing?
  4. Feb 22, 2012 #3


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    Mod note: Please be aware of the rules of the site, especially banned topics.

    Regarding your question I think it isn't phrased correctly. If you are asking will the biosphere collapse to the point where most life is dead then my answer would be yes, if you are asking will the biosphere collapse to the point where there is no life then my answer would be yes, if you are asking will the biosphere collapse to the point where no life is possible then my answer would be yes and finally if you are asking if the physical body of the Earth will one day be broken apart then my answer is yes.

    The difference is obviously when these will all happen and why. Mass extinctions have happened many times throughout the history of life, in some of them nearly all species died out (the End Permian resulted in the extinction of >95% of marine species and >70% of terrestrial species) and there is some speculation as to whether or not we are entering yet another extinction event. There are various things that we could do to severely damage the ecosystem such as nuclear war or mass habitat destruction but just standard population growth with unsustainable practices could cause enough damage.

    There are many ways that we could make our civilisations eco-friendly and sustainable, I have no doubt that at some point we will be almost totally sustainable but how much damage we will do in the meantime is still unclear to me.
  5. Feb 22, 2012 #4
    Are you saying that it is possible for the human population to bring all of these about?
  6. Feb 22, 2012 #5


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    Oops :redface: well spotted, I forgot to clarify that I was saying yes because all these things will one day naturally happen due to the expansion of the sun. We have the capability now (I would argue) to cause a mass extinction though possibly not to completely eradicate life. Anything else (again I would argue) is beyond us.
  7. Feb 22, 2012 #6
    Just thought I would clarify.

    I agree with your ideas.
  8. Feb 22, 2012 #7


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    The worst humans could do is wipe out ourselves, large biospheres and a large fraction (approaching one) of high-order animals.

    It would be virtually impossible to wipe lower-order animals (such as bacteria) from the Earth without a planet-cracking catastrophe (though they could probably decimate the population).
  9. Mar 3, 2012 #8
    I don't think that we will actually destroy the earth. It's not going to break up into multiple peices or go veering off its orbital path. The environment might be in trouble. I'm not sure how that will actually impact humanity though.
    Last edited by a moderator: Mar 3, 2012
  10. Mar 11, 2012 #9
    That is almost certainly impossible.

    Earth cannot be destroyed by anything within Earth. It can only be "destroyed" by something of larger mass. Even if 1 million nuclear weapons hit Earth, the peices would gravitate toward the core and Earth would remain intact.

    Sure, Earth would be inhospitable to any life, but it would still exist. Even if Earth were broken into one million peices, where would the peices go? They would just clump together into a new mass.

    Humans will become extinct far before the Earth. Humans have only lived 200,000 years. They would be lucky to live another million years. Dinosaurs lived 200 million years and still became extinct. Just to show you the scale, humans have little impact on the Earth.
  11. Mar 25, 2012 #10
    A small correction, but perhaps important. No species of dinosaur lived for 200 million years. Comparing the entire Dinosauria with a single species is misleading. Hominids have been around for a few million years. At the species level I would be surprised if dinosaurs were much more 'resilient' than primates.
  12. Mar 25, 2012 #11


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    Well, crocodiles and sharks have been around virtually unchanged for many millions of years. Though, technically, they are not the same species.
  13. Mar 26, 2012 #12
    I think you are falling victim to the same approach of comparing things that are not directly comparable. Technically the crocodiles alive today are not even the same genus as those which were alive several million years ago. A specialist in Crocodilia would be unlikely to accept your assessment that they were 'virtually unchanged'.

    The average lifespan of a species varies between families and orders, and clearly depends upon the extent of relevant environmental changes, but it will tend to be around a couple of million years.
  14. Mar 27, 2012 #13


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    well, not quite true. the issue is energy. you could conceivably have a hard heavenly body, say some large asteroid or planetoid that is 1/2 or 1/4 the mass of the moon, slam directly into the Earth at a speed (relative to Earth) of, say 250,000 m/s. that would bust up the Earth pretty good.

    lacking an astronomical cataclysm as described above, yes that's also true.
  15. Mar 31, 2012 #14
    i did make somewhat of an error. i do thank you for clarifying.

    if an asteroid the size of the moon smashed into Earth, it would break to peices, but the peices would likely coalesce into a "new" Earth. I was being overly technical.
  16. Mar 31, 2012 #15


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    Okay, Coelacanth. :smile:
  17. Mar 31, 2012 #16
    Humans are damaging to the environment, but we will not damage it to the point where it is "destroyed". Before it is comprehensible that we as a race can reach that point, it is more likely that the human race would be extinguished and the Earth's environment as a whole will easily cope.
  18. Apr 5, 2012 #17
    Still not the same genus. As far as I can recall the living species are members of the same Family as the extinct forms, so there are substantial differences between live and fossil examples. The Coelacanthiforme Order went extinct, it was thought, at the end of the Cretaceous and the excitement surrounded finding members of that Order still extant today. I repeat, in terms of species it's not night and day, but April and October.

    I don't apologise for harping on about this, for in terms of biology these distinctions are important - loose phraseology leads to loose thinking and often erroneous conclusions.
  19. Apr 5, 2012 #18


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    This is good. I know only pop-sci about the Coelacanthe. Beyond superficial appearance, I don't know how different the two forms are. (Or whether they could interbreed if an ancient one were still around.)
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