End of Evolution: a Retrospective

25 Mar

November, 2042
The natural evolution of life on planet Earth began to come to an end one hundred years ago on December 2, 1942 under a squash court in Chicago, Illinois, USA. The wizard who precipitated this event was the brilliant Italian physicist, Enrico Fermi.

Now the planet is de facto, bankrupt; no longer solvent. At this moment in time, the natural evolution of species is perhaps doomed to end and be replaced by worldwide genetic contamination as mankind can no longer afford to safely maintain or dispose of the countless machines and devices that have been produced since Professor Fermi released the genii by starting the first successful controlled nuclear chain reaction.

There had been opportunity for America to neuter the jinn from that day in 1942 until September 16, 1985, the day on which the USA went broke, became a debtor nation, no longer a viable Empire and could not afford to bear the costs and responsibility for the hideously dangerous forces it had released; assuming, which is exceedingly doubtful, it ever had intended to do so. No limits to growth were seriously considered in those halcyon days. Limiting growth then, as now, means sharing what we already have. Anathema, then, as it is now.

At the end of the first decade of the twenty-first century, the apex of the misadventure, there were, according to Nuclear Power Today, updated in February, 2011:

“… now over 440 commercial nuclear power reactors operating in 30 countries, 56 countries operate a total of about 250 research reactors and a further 180 nuclear reactors power some 140 ships and submarines. Over 60 further nuclear power reactors are under construction, while over 150 are firmly planned”.

“The magnitude of the radiation generated in a nuclear power plant is almost beyond belief … The original uranium fuel that is subject to the fission process becomes 1 billion times more radioactive in the reactor core. A thousand-megawatt nuclear power plant contains as much long-lived radiation as that produced by the explosion of 1,000 Hiroshima-sized bombs.” Dr. Helen Caldicott

That huge number of nuclear appliances was dwarfed by the tally, courtesy of ICAN, of 23,300 nuclear warheads around the globe. Add to this the immense volume of nuclear waste which had always defied safe long term storage. This was the situation worldwide decades before the looming end of nature’s sovereignty. In the year 2011 it was theoretically possible, with a huge expenditure of resources and treasure worldwide, to prevent the catastrophe looming just ahead. The knowledge of mankind having long passed the peak of affordable oil strengthened the resolve of industry and political decision makers not to open honest discussion or to consider implementation. Nothing at all was done.

An example of the mind-set of most humans at that time is the launching of a missile towards Mars in November of 2011 containing scores of ounces of Plutonium regarded as the most lethal substance known. In what must have been the most maniacal piece of uber-hubris in decades that mission, curiously enough called ‘Curiosity’, was purported to seek signs of Life on that sphere but by sending forth a parcel of Death always in the name of Progress.

Mankind had prior warning of the consequences of uncontrolled nuclear fission with the experiences of Chernobyl, Ukraine in 1986 and Fukushima, Japan in 2011. Nevertheless, In the inevitable course of events, the tens of thousand of devices resultant after the early Chicago experiments have been left poorly attended. Without the absolutely precise knowledge for their maintenance, combined with the enormous cost of this critical attention, they have been effectively abandoned.

“Ionizing radiation—the kind that minerals, atom bombs and nuclear reactors emit—does one main thing to the human body: it weakens and breaks up DNA, either damaging cells enough to kill them or causing them to mutate in ways that may eventually lead to cancer.

… This ionizing radiation can damage DNA molecules directly, by breaking the bonds between atoms, or it can ionize water molecules and form free radicals, which are highly reactive and also disrupt the bonds of surrounding molecules, including DNA.” POPSCI The Future Now

Peter Dedon, a member of the Radiation Protection Committee at MIT, explained: “What happens is that the nucleus of radioactive elements undergoes decay and emits high-energy particles. If you stand in the way of those particles, they are going to interact with the cells of your body. You literally get a particle, an energy packet, moving through your cells and tissues.”

“What long-term effects can radiation have?
The effect of the radiation may not be to kill the cell, but to alter its DNA code in a way that leaves the cell alive but with an error in the DNA blueprint. The effect of this mutation will depend on the nature of the error and when it is read. Since this is a random process, such effects are now called stochastic. Two important stochastic effects of radiation are cancer, which results from mutations in nongerm cells (termed somatic cells), and heritable changes, which result from mutations in germ cells (eggs and sperm).”

… ACHRE Report

With all of civilization on the edge of abyss here in the middle of the twenty-first century and trying desperately to feed and/or quell the remaining billions of frantic citizens, little effort or funding is directed toward confronting the pending nuclear dilemma. This oversight is critical because without constant attention these neglected devices ultimately begin to alter life on the planet. Nature has little ability to cope with the radiation emanating from those thousands of impaired devices and storage facilities and the genetics of living organisms is affected in myriads of ways by the onslaught.

Those lethal ions spewing forth unchecked bring illness, death or failing both, blast apart DNA and change forever nature’s prior mandate. Species are affected to varying degrees and for all time. Were any Martian organisms doomed as well by man’s folly?

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2 Responses to “End of Evolution: a Retrospective”

  1. Gwaiharad April 29, 2014 at 5:33 pm #

    Yes, nuclear waste and contamination is a problem. But it’s not as big as you’re making it out to be. There is plenty of radiation already in the environment. Some of it comes from natural minerals occurring near the surface, some comes from the Sun. DNA does not only mutate in response to radiation, random chance can cause mutations, and plenty of chemicals known as mutagens have a similar effect. Some of those chemicals can be found naturally in certain plants; they’re not all human-made.

    I agree that we should do all we can to make sure that as little radiation as possible escapes from its lead and concrete prisons. But, should we fail in this, it is neither the end of the world nor the end of evolution. If anything, it might speed evolution’s pace a little, as radiation-induced mutations introduce more genetic variance to populations. We won’t see giant mutant rats or any other monsters from science fiction, but maybe in a few thousand years there will be a new species of aphid or earthworm that wouldn’t otherwise have existed.

    • ibonobos April 29, 2014 at 7:12 pm #

      I dearly hope you are correct but I strongly doubt it. I think my grandkids will be stuck with our follies.

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