At One Point Humans were Nearly Extinct and Would Be Considered “Endangered” Today

When you hear scientists discussing extinction and endangered species, you probably don’t think of humans as a species which could be subjected to either, but at one point, humans were nearly extinct and would be considered endangered today. Scientists calculated that over a million years ago, when our ancestors were just spreading through Africa, Europe, and Asia, there were most likely only around twenty thousand or so humans who were actually capable of breeding. This amount would be considered endangered today; it’s a smaller population than that of either chimpanzees or gorillas, both of which number more than twenty thousand. In fact, humans actually would have remained on that endangered list for over a million years.

Humans, as well as our earlier primate ancestors, have gone through several cycles of size change in population. At times there were a large population and at other times, we would have been considered endangered. This is due to what researchers refer to as “bottlenecks”, which were events in which a large portion of the population died or was unable to reproduce. An example of this would be a super volcano in Indonesia, named Toba, which erupted seventy thousand years ago. A chain reaction of this eruption produced nuclear winter and only about fifteen thousand humans are assumed to have survived it.

Another event, such as the super volcano eruption, is thought to have occurred about a million years ago which almost entirely wiped out humans. Some scientists believe the number of survivors may have only been about a thousand, while some believe that number to be even smaller, no more than forty breeding pairs. Luckily for us, some did survive. However, species are becoming extinct at an alarming rate and we, as a species, are facing becoming endangered or even extinct as well if we don’t do something about the rate at which our population is rapidly increasing.

What most people can’t seem to comprehend is that we can’t keep increasing our populations forever; the Earth and its resources are finite. They will run out eventually and we, as a species, will starve. In addition, scientists also believe humans will be responsible for the sixth mass extinction event and we could very well be one of the species that becomes endangered or goes extinct.

This is why is important to not only work at preventing our populations from continuing to soar uncontrolled, but it is also pertinent that we learn how to save our natural resources and find ways to produce more. Although the likelihood of an extinction of the human race by natural causes, such as another super volcano or a meteorite impact, is considered to be exceptionally low, that doesn’t mean it’s impossible. What it does mean is that the extinction of the human race, as we know, if it happens, is more probable to be the fault of our own.

This type of extinction, referred to as anthropogenic, is caused by human activity and could be the result of several scenarios, such as overpopulation, which was already mentioned, in addition to global warming, ecological collapse, nuclear annihilation, or biological warfare. Additionally, new technologies could also bring about extinction possibilities such as self-replicating nanobots, biotechnology, or advanced artificial intelligence.

While most seem to think that humans are here to stay and that becoming endangered or even extinct is an impossibility, the truth is, it’s not impossible. Several times in human history we could have been considered endangered. For once, we actually have the technology to stop it, but will we?


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