The Future of Plants
In the past ten thousand years, the world of terrestrial life has been more influenced by the growing population of human beings, and by their growing ability to alter the environment to suit their short-term needs, than by all other factors combined.
Through the agency of human beings, for instance, those plants they find useful to themselves have been multiplied in numbers and in living space by a factor of millions. Since there is only so much land on Earth and since all suitable portions of it were occupied by vegetation of one sort or another at the time agriculture was developed, the spread, over millions of square miles, of grain and vegetable fields, orchards, sugar cane, and rubber trees has meant a shrinkage of the forests and, generally, of the area given over to plants in which human beings are not particularly interested.
On the whole, then, the world of plants has grown increasingly unbalanced and decreasingly diverse through the agency of Homo sapiens.
What may we look for in the future?
If population continues to increase, energy sources to decrease, international hatreds to grow more intense, the capacity of our leaders to make wise decisions to diminish, then this trend for the plant world will continue even more markedly over the next few decades until civilization crashes. If the crash comes without a thermonuclear war, the plant world may then slowly return to its own over the remains of a shrinking humanity.
It is not pleasant to think of this particular possibility.
However, it may be that, faced with the rapidly growing crises of the closing decades of the twentieth century, humanity will learn to cooperate and take measures to control population, conserve energy, increase the