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Geological Society hears sombre warning on future of mankind

Guests celebrating the bicentenary of the Geological Society of London were delivered a stark warning on the future of mankind last month.

The sombre message was given in an after-dinner speech by professor and television presenter Aubrey Manning, at the glitzy 13 November event, held at London's Natural History Museum.

At the end of a speech on the venerable history of the Society and geology within the UK, Manning, emeritus professor of Natural History at the University of Edinburgh, told the audience that mankind is unlikely to exist far into the future of the Earth.

"I do not fear for the future of the planet, I fear for the future of the human race [existing on it]," he said.

He later told GE that his concerns are due to the actions of humans. "We are being immensely destructive and in danger of becoming a mono-culture," he said. "We have a population of about 6.3bn and would need to bring that down to about 2.5bn or maybe 2bn on a planet
of this size within about five generations.

"Of course this is a pipe-dream. We need to be shocked into action," he said.

Manning said a conservative estimate might be that the Earth will be orbiting the Sun for another 2.5bn years. Another conservative estimate may be that humans have been on the planet for only 200,000 years. But when faced with this order of magnitude, in light of the way humans have treated the planet, it is unlikely mankind will continue to exist into the Earth's long-term future.

Also attending the 200th year celebrations was naturalist Sir David Attenborough. Commenting on Manning's fears he told GE: "You're talking about two very different timescales, but I suspect what he said is true."

THE VENERATED SOCIETY

The website of the Geological Society of London states:

"[It] is the world's oldest national scientific and professional society for Earth scientists and was founded on 13 November 1807 at a dinner at the Freemasons Tavern, Great Queen Street, Covent Garden. The minutes of the meeting record that there were 13 founder members. This meeting resolved: 'That there be forthwith instituted a Geological Society for the purpose of making geologists acquainted with each other, of stimulating their zeal, of inducing them to adopt one nomenclature, of facilitating the communications of new facts and of ascertaining what is known in their science and what remains to be discovered.'"

More information on the bicentenary events can be found at www.geolsoc.org.uk/gsl/society/bicentenary

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