Save the people!
Preventing human extinction
By Stacy McAnulty
Illustrated by Nicole Miles
Some say the world will end in fire. Some say on ice. Others bet on nuclear war or a volcano. There are also those who entertain the idea of foreign aggression. Or so I called Stacy McAnulty’s “Save the People!” Gathered from, watching the global catastrophe with a light heart. (Think “Essential Earth” meets “Captain Underpants”.)
A children’s book author who became a mechanical engineer, MacAnnellty began with the major mass extinctions of the Earth, the end-Ordovician – the first of the so-called Big Five – which occurred about 445 million years ago. At that time, life was almost entirely confined to water. The sun was dim, the earth was spinning fast (about 20 hours a day) and, McAnulty notes, “there was no Wi-Fi.”
After the mass extinction – “Like any scary story, it’s fun to hear about them, but it would be disgusting to participate in them” – meet the asteroids. Influenced by an asteroid about a mile in diameter, MacAnnellti writes, “Strong enough to create shock waves to break your limbs. Ick!Additional threats from space include coronal mass ejection (CMEs) and gamma-ray bursts (GRBs). The first is the explosion of plasma from the sun which generates powerful magnetic fields. A CME could knock out power in North America, shutting down banks, supermarkets and water treatment plants, creating general chaos. GRBs are believed to form black holes. A particularly good purpose can destroy the earth’s ozone layer, which can lead to crop failure, not to mention widespread blindness. Viruses can wipe us out, though, as MacAnnellty happily observes, “we do not currently have a 100% deadly infectious disease.”
McAnulty devotes the last third of the book to climate change. Our gas emissions are destroying the planet, he argues. “We need to stop fermenting around and check them out.” This section includes “fun scary facts”, for example: “American fire season is 78 days longer than 50 years ago,” and “Earth is warming faster than millions of years now.” In Paris, in 2015, leaders of almost every nation in the world gathered and pledged to stop their countries’ emissions. But their agreement does not include any penalty for not fulfilling its terms. As McAnulty put it, “It’s like a huge group project where everyone is expected to do their part, but only if no one gets in trouble with the teacher.” Meanwhile, time is running out to escape the worst effects of summer: “It’s like wanting a big hailstorm for Halloween. You can’t sow seeds a week in advance and expect a prize-winning gourd.”