How the living world evolved and where it’s headed now

| July 29, 2022 | Leave a Comment

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Publication Info:

Date of Publication: June 27

Year of Publication: 2022

Publication City: London, UK

Publisher: The Royal Society

Author(s): Peter H. Raven

Journal: Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society - Biological Sciences

Volume: 377, issue 1857


The growth of life on Earth over more than 4 billion years has experienced five major extinction events, each followed by a period of rapid increase in species number. When organisms first invaded the land about 480 million years ago, another explosive proliferation of species followed.

Our species, Homo sapiens, appeared some 300 000 years ago, developed agriculture about 11 000 years ago, and grew rapidly to some 7.8 billion people, who are currently consuming about 175% of the sustainable productivity available worldwide. By mid-century (2050), we will have grown to about 9.9 billion.

Wealth is very unequally distributed. Meanwhile, the Earth’s mean temperature has increased by 1.1°C above pre-industrial levels, and we are on track for a total increase of 2.6 to 3.9°C. We are driving species to extinction at a rate unprecedented for the past 66 million years.

These changes promise to be disastrous for the maintenance of civilization. Indeed, our only hope for a sustainable future will be for us to find a way to overcome our unremitting greed at all levels and to love one another while building social justice.

This article is part of the themed issue ‘Ecological complexity and the biosphere: the next 30 years’.

Read the full paper here or download it from the link above.

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