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Sixth extinction: Are we in danger of destroying ourselves?

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The end is nigh! Elon Musk’s antics in outer space, Dubai’s indoor ski resort and DB’s plans for an ice rink fill Peter Sherwood with a sense of impending doom.

Not a lot of giggles here. We begin with a conversation stopper: The extinction of life on earth is underway in earnest. Not much hilarity and jolly optimism there. With such dystopian news, we need a few distractions.

Earlier this year, we watched as a multi-billionaire launched his car into outer space, and the Sixth Extinction went into overdrive. In a few billion years, this is the first elimination of life on Earth by a single species – creative, inspirational (and deadly) Homo sapiens. No massive asteroid impact or volcanic eruption, just us, pumping oil and coal, stored safely for millions of years, into the atmosphere at frightening speed.

Like all anthropogenic fiascos, millions of acts both anodyne and gratuitously stupid have combined for a calamitous outcome (like the election of Donald Trump). Rather than feeling overwhelmed, it’s less depressing to examine impending doom one ecological spoonful at a time. And reflect on a pithy Professor Stephen Hawking axiom: “We are in danger of destroying ourselves by our greed and stupidity. We cannot remain looking inwards at ourselves on a small and increasingly polluted and overcrowded planet.”

Overpopulation begat the madness. Those with their heroic visions fixed on Mars insist technology will fix it. They forget that technology enabled our species to become, in the words of naturalist Sir David Attenborough, “a plague on the earth.” A space-obsessed crowd is led by the pop entrepreneurial genius of Richard Branson and Elon Musk. Both operate the environmentally dirty businesses of cars and planes. Meanwhile, they gaze heavenward to squeeze a dollar from space tourism.

Earth to Musk and Branson: The ‘garbage patch’ in the Pacific Ocean now measures 1.6 million square kilometres, three times the size of France. The British Antarctic Survey estimates that in a decade there will be three tonnes of plastic in our oceans for every one tonne of fish. Given your entrepreneurial zeal, is there any hope of you developing a brilliant biodegradable plastic substitute?

In the name of mass tourism

For minor ecological silliness, try the proposal of an ice skating rink right here in DB (an ecoabomination that would give the nitwit extravagance of Victoria Harbour’s Symphony of Lights a run for its money). Then scale it up to the frozen wastes of…Dubai, and the dumbest idea of the century – an indoor Alpine ski resort in 50ºC heat.

Ski Dubai owes its existence to massive desalination, a filthy, energy-intense process that fires romantic clouds of CO² into the desert sky. The wastes of desalination are devastating for the environment, marine life and human health (Google it), added to which there’s the stratospheric mess from the thousands of planes hauling in punters to experience the snowy extravaganza.

Like the Dubai disaster, Symphony of Lights and DB’s loony ice rink scheme are central to the worst of the ‘isms’ – mass tourism. Next to botulism, cannibalism and Fascism, it’s right up there. They’ll be here in droves from across Asia, crashing around on the slippery stuff taking selfies of broken limbs, smashed heads and crushed vertebrae – people whose only prior experience with ice was the cubes in the welcome drinks at their hotels.


Peter Sherwood has lived in DB for 19 years. The former head of an international public relations firm, Peter is the author of 15 books and has written around 400 satirical columns for the South China Morning Post.


Illustration by pexels.com

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