Facing Extinction

| April 3, 2019 | Leave a Comment

The moment when the surface of a soap bubble, broken by a nail, has begun to collapse and fall apart, but hasn't finished yet. Collapse by Sober Rabbit | Flickr | CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

Media Type: News / Op - Ed

Author(s): Catherine Ingram

Categories: , ,

Facing Extinction
by Catherine Ingram


“The heavens were all on fire; the earth did tremble.”
–William Shakespeare
Henry IV, Part 1

For much of my life, I thought our species would soon go extinct. I assumed we might last another hundred years if we were lucky.  Now I suspect we are facing extinction in the near future. Can I speculate as to exactly when that might happen?  Of course not.  My sense of this is based only on probability.  It might be similar to hearing about a diagnosis of late stage pancreatic cancer.  Is it definite that the person is going to die soon?  No, not definite.  Is it highly probable?  Yes, one would be wise to face the likelihood and put one’s affairs in order.

You may read the complete essay here. 


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The views and opinions expressed through the MAHB Website are those of the contributing authors and do not necessarily reflect an official position of the MAHB. The MAHB aims to share a range of perspectives and welcomes the discussions that they prompt.
  • Greeley Miklashek

    Thank you Catherine and MAHB (Joan?) for this brilliant and, not to be trite, heart-warming essay. At the risk of peeling away another layer or two of the denial onion covering the honest assessment of our current existential crisis, I have a unique perspective on the human condition and our place in the larger ecological scheme of Gaia, as I am a retired physician (42 years as a psychiatrist). Every decade I noticed the rate of major depression in the US was doubling. Currently, 1/3 American college freshmen enter college already taking anti-depressants and 1/4 women are too. During my 6 1/2 years of retirement, I have done extensive research on studies from the 70 year history of animal crowding, only to realize that humanity was going through the same existential process. So, I’ve coined the term “population density stress” to summarize the forces at play in our world resulting from a 3,000 times greater population than at the inception of the agricultural revolution 12,000 years ago. To get to the bottomline, when the crowding become severe enough, social structures breakdown and, finally, all successful reproduction ceases across the entire population simultaneously. Thus extinction ensues. These crowding experiments have been repeated hundreds of times and always yield the same result.

    I share this troubling revelation as a warning to us all that time is running out and that our species’ demise may precede the total collapse of the climate, although better informed climatologists than me have argued the contrary. Were it not for our extensive heroic expensive ($3.8T, projected to be $5.9T by 2030!) medical care system, public health infrastructure, clean water supply, etc., we would all be dead already. Was that more than two layers of the union? If so, I apologize. Physicians spend their whole lives facing death in the eyes.

    Thanks, again, for the brilliant essay and fond memories of Leonard Cohen and his lyrics! Your are a truly courageous woman and it has been an honor to make your acquaintance!
    Should you garner the strength to peel off another layer of the onion, you’ll find the free PDF of my book, “Stress R Us” in the MAHB e-library. Best wishes! Cheers!