When people hear the term ‘extinction event,’ they typically think of the dinosaurs; a massive comet hurtling towards Earth, with its residents blissfully unaware of what’s about to occur. The coronavirus could help change that.

Save for a few notable exceptions, the process of one species being removed from the planet has never been so quick, simple, and un-preventable. Take pandas as an example; for decades, experts have tried to bring them back from the brink with varying degrees of success.

However, action (or rather inaction on behalf of the panda) has been one of the leading causes of the decline in these populations. Without external action – in this case, from experts in their respective fields – our cuddly friends would no longer be around.

Humanity’s Ongoing Environmental Impact

This is the situation that humanity faces and has been facing for decades. Similar to the panda, mankind may be facing a mass extinction event, except we won’t be going out in a blazing inferno as the dinosaurs once did.

For decades, humanity has known about the damage that we, as a whole, inflict on the planet. For decades, we’ve ignored this knowledge, and we’ll be facing the consequences of this in-action for the decades, if not centuries, to come. The Amazon rainforest, among countless other examples, continues to be torn asunder. Oil and gas industries continue to irreparably harm the environment.

We’ve begun seeing the consequences of such actions, as well as the results of failing to curtail them. The majority of the warmest years in recorded history have come in the past twenty years or so, while 2020 is almost guaranteed to place near the top of that list, if not take the number one spot altogether.

As we’ve seen, climate change has had catastrophic effects across the planet, as land becomes less and less effective at providing the (continually increasing) amount of food and water we reap from it, despite an uncomfortably high percentage of this produce going to waste.

Mile-wide swarms of locusts make their way across the African continent, destroying crops and spreading illness as they go. CO2 levels continue to break records year-on-year, despite environmentalists and others begging for drastic change.

Instead, humanity continues to put the pedal to the metal in our gas-guzzling cars, with many either not knowing or not caring what the fallout of these actions might be. While some may believe that humankind can deal with these consequence as they occur, the COVID-19 pandemic highlights quite a concerning issue:

In the case of a worldwide epidemic, humanity is virtually defenseless.

The Continuing Impact Of The Coronavirus

What began as an isolated incident has blossomed into a global epidemic that still doesn’t show signs of slowing down. Hospitals across the world continue to be put under extreme amounts of pressure to deal with an influx in patients that they may not be able to treat.

In contrast, medical professionals in many hospitals may soon have to face an impossible decision; who do I let live, and who do I leave to die? This is a situation mirrored in countries across the globe, and these are supposed ‘first-world’ countries; third-world nations fall drastically short of our ever-so-low bar.

As humanity continues to kill the planet, infectious diseases will continue to spread while resources become increasingly more limited. As the current coronavirus epidemic highlights, humanity is drastically unprepared for the consequences of continuing to follow the same path.

Though American President Donald Trump and many of his Republican colleagues have hinted that people may die to save the economy from the coronavirus, the reality is that COVID-19 may be the beginning of our extinction event. Like the panda, our demise may be slow, and we may not see it coming.

However, like efforts that have so far prevented their extinction, there are actions that can be taken to avoid ours, such as the Green New Deal proposed by American presidential candidate Bernie Sanders and Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.

Unlike the dinosaurs, we can see this catastrophe coming. It’s time we acted. As COVID-19 highlights, if we don’t, then we may be facing a mass extinction of our own.