Throughout the earth’s 4 billion year history, there have been various mass extinctions that killed off countless organisms. The last mass extinction occurred 66 million years ago and wiped out almost 75% of all species on earth. All these extinction events were the result of natural calamities such as an asteroid impact, global temperature fluctuations, destructive solar flares, massive volcanic eruptions or a combination of various factors.
Even today, we are in the middle of an ongoing mass extinction event called the Holocene extinction. This is in fact, the sixth mass extinction event in Earth’s history.
However, the reason this extinction stands out from the rest is the cause – human activities. Hence, it is also called the Anthropocene extinction. (The word Anthropocene is derived from ancient Greek, which translates to “Human era”). Ever since the dawn of the Industrial Revolution, human activities have changed the face of the earth. There are substantial changes to the earth’s atmosphere, land, and oceans.
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This has a detrimental effect on the environment and has already led many species to extinction such as the dodo, passenger pigeon, and the Tasmanian tiger. Besides the encroachment of natural habitat, humans have also introduced various types of pollution into the environment.
Nuclear pollution is one of the more serious types of pollution. On a small scale, improper disposal of nuclear wastes can cause animals and humans to be exposed to dangerous ionizing radiation. This can lead to the development of various disorders that can eventually lead to death.
Nuclear energy is also used to power nuclear weapons, and these can leave long-lasting repercussions on the environment. A plausible scenario proposed by scientists is the onset of nuclear winter, which is brought about by the aftermath of a nuclear war. In this scenario, the detonation of several nuclear warheads can block out the sunlight with soot and dust for several months.
With no sunlight and heat reaching the earth’s surface, plants are unable to perform photosynthesis. No photosynthesis means no food for plants and this means death. Consequently, the entire food web collapses and animals starve to death. It won’t be long before humans fall along with every other lifeform in this grim, mass extinction event.
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