A team at the University of Southampton are pioneering a technique to predict when an ecosystem is likely to collapse, which may also have potential for foretelling crises in agriculture, fisheries or even social systems preventing another "Easter Island" collapse from occuring. The scientists applied a mathematical model to a real world situation, the environmental collapse of a lake in China, to help prove a theory which suggests an ecosystem 'flickers', or fluctuates dramatically between healthy and unhealthy states, shortly before its eventual collapse.
"We wanted to prove that this 'flickering' occurs just ahead of a dramatic change in a system – be it a social, ecological or climatic one – and that this method could potentially be used to predict future critical changes in other impacted systems in the world around us," said John Dearing, head of geography at Southampton.
Eminent Australian scientist Professor Frank Fenner, emeritus professor of microbiology at the Australian National University (ANU), who helped to wipe out smallpox, predicts humans will probably be extinct within 100 years, because of overpopulation, environmental destruction and climate change. Tools, such as that being pioneered at Southampton, may prevent this dire prediction from becoming a reality. If past is prolgue, 70,000 years ago the human population was reduced to small isolated groups in Africa, apparently because of drought, according to a 2010 analysis by researchers at Stanford University. The estimated the number of early humans may have shrunk as low as 2,000 before numbers began to expand again in the early Stone Age.
Tiny bands of early humans, forced apart by harsh environmental conditions, coming back from the brink to reunite and populate the world. Truly an epic drama, written in our DNA." Wells is director of the Genographic Project, launched in 2005 to study anthropology using genetics. The report was published in the American Journal of Human Genetics.
Fenner says homo sapiens will not be able to survive the population explosion and “unbridled consumption,” and will become extinct, perhaps within a century, along with many other species. United Nations official figures from last year estimate the human population is seven billion, and is predicted to pass seven billion next year.
A scientific battle over the fate of Easter Island's natives is ready to erupt this summer with the publication of a book challenging the notion that their Neolithic society committed ecological suicide.
This talk (based on his controversial book, Collapse) explores the economic and environmental causes behind why a society that is overextended might collapse or recede from a golden age. Jared Diamond uses multiple historical examples such as classical Mayan civilization and Easter Island as well as modern societies such as Rwanda and Haiti, to argue that unsustainable management of the environmental resources might lead to short-term economic successes, but the environmental degradation may threaten the long-term economic viability of the economic system. This talk ties agricultural patterns, economic practices and political policies that can strengthen or weaken a society and the book looks to the past to assess the challenges of the present and future. This TED talk brings geographic concepts and spatial thinking to many of contemporary global issues.
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