Humanity takes an unexpected journey

Humans may have to shrink to the size of a Hobbit in order to survive a warming world

08 Jan 2013, 00:08

Martin Freeman as Bilbo Baggins in The Hobbit an unexpected journey

Hobbits! Everyone - but everyone - seems to be hopelessly enamoured with these small, friendly (and fictional) creatures, overlooking their devil-may-care attitude to foot hair.

How else to explain the positive reception to Kiwi propaganda epic The Hobbit? A rip-roaring, bladder-busting 169 minutes of walking, running, more walking - but over hills this time - a spot of fighting, a brief saunter under a mountain, plenty of picturesque shots of the New Zealand countryside, a bit more walking, oh, and some eagles, which to the Tank's mind could have cut the whole thing down by about - ooh - 160 minutes had they been involved from the get-go.

Anyway, Hobbits - endlessly entertaining. But would you want to be one?

Well, it turns out you may not have much choice, because according to scientists, we may have to shrink down to the size of Hobbits - which avid Tolkien fans will know is between two and four feet (0.61-1.22 m) tall - to survive in a rapidly warming world.

A US-UK research team reckons the alternative is mass extinctions, just as the world experienced some 55 million years ago - although then, the warming occurred over a timespan of between 10,000 and 20,000 years, which is an inconceivable amount of time for anyone who hasn't sat through The Hobbit.

Back then - in the Paleocene-Eocene Thermal Maximum, to be precise, not the CINECHAIN MULTIPLEX - a large range of species including horses and, erm, earthworms adopted "dwarfism" in a bid to reduce their need for scarce food and other resources.

Now, the Tank reckons this is going way beyond the slight weight loss we'd envisaged after an over-indulgent Christmas vacation. Frankly, we thought the whole global warming issue had got out of hand when it turned out Kentish vineyards could be churning out Chateauneuf-du-Pape within two decades.

But if, as some forecasters are predicting, global temperatures rise by up to 6°C over the next century, well - fur up our toes and call us Frodo. Oh, and don't forget to invest those savings in children's clothing and depilatory creams.

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