Michael Smith, Nobel Prize winner

10 Dec 1993. Michael Smith, winner of Nobel Prize in Chemistry 1993, speech at the Nobel Banquet.

I believe that Alfred Nobel, in contemplating this munificent act of the Bank and in contemplating what might happen in the next 100 years, would be concerned about the problems of that next century. And, of course, there is one problem that would attract his attention beyond all others. That is the impact of the uncontrolled growth and demands of the human population on the finite capacity of planet Earth.

We, Homo sapiens, destroyed the majority of the large mammalian species in North America and Australasia just over 10,000 years ago.

We, Homo sapiens, now are destroying the other species that presently exist on this planet at a rate of about 15,000 to 20,000 per year. Given that the current estimate of the total number of species on the planet is about 2 million, this rate, by the end of the next century, will be equivalent in biological effect to the catastrophic event(s) of 65 million years ago that eliminated not only the dinosaurs but also the ammonoid cephalopods, many echinoids, and many genera of foraminifera and of calcareous phytoplankton, the kind of mass extinction that previously in the earth’s history has required 5 million years for recovery, such recovery resulting in a completely different biota from that preceeding it.


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