Frank Fenner sees no hope for humans
This is the main body of the article. I tend to make large excerpts; I don't if I should try make them shorter, but I find it difficult to leave bits out when they seem important. I took out lots of interesting stuff in this one.
"We're going to become extinct," the eminent scientist says. "Whatever we do now is too late."
He wrote his first papers on the environment in the early 1970s, when human impact was emerging as a big problem.
He says the Earth has entered the Anthropocene. Although it is not an official epoch on the geological timescale, the Anthropocene is entering scientific terminology. It spans the time since industrialisation, when our species started to rival ice ages and comet impacts in driving the climate on a planetary scale.
Fenner says the real trouble is the population explosion and "unbridled consumption".
The number of Homo sapiens is projected to exceed 6.9 billion this year, according to the UN. With delays in firm action on cutting greenhouse gas emissions, Fenner is pessimistic.
"We'll undergo the same fate as the people on Easter Island," he says. "Climate change is just at the very beginning. But we're seeing remarkable changes in the weather already.
"Homo sapiens will become extinct, perhaps within 100 years," he says. "A lot of other animals will, too. It's an irreversible situation. I think it's too late. I try not to express that because people are trying to do something, but they keep putting it off.
Fenner's colleague and long-time friend Stephen Boyden, a retired professor at the ANU, says there is deep pessimism among some ecologists, but others are more optimistic.
"Frank may be right, but some of us still harbour the hope that there will come about an awareness of the situation and, as a result, the revolutionary changes necessary to achieve ecological sustainability," says Boyden, an immunologist who turned to human ecology later in his career.
"That's where Frank and I differ. We're both aware of the seriousness of the situation, but I don't accept that it's necessarily too late. While there's a glimmer of hope, it's worth working to solve the problem. We have the scientific knowledge to do it but we don't have the political will."