The Way of the Word

21. January 2011

Extinction Event

Misanthropy Week concludes. An Extinction Event is a catastrophic occurrence that wipes out most life on Earth, leaving the survivors to fill the now-freed ecological niches.

The most famous Extinction Event is the one that killed the dinosaurs 65 Million years ago. It paved the way for the evolution and domination of the mammal. That’s us. It wasn’t the first, though. There were altogether five or six of the darn things.

Yes, that’s right: it has happened five or six times that most life on Earth was wiped out, basically cleaning the slate for the next try. The Discovery Channel’s website has a very nice interactive graphic about it, so I’m linking here instead of repeating the list.

Here’s the timeline.

Done? Quite interesting, isn’t it?

You ask why this is relevant? Because we’re currently in the middle of another Extinction Event, one that rivals the dinosaur-killing one in magnitude.

I’ll grant you that the site this link leads to is biased, but they are mainly a link collection, so you can look at the data they’ve collected and make up your own mind.

Sadly, the cause of this Extinction Event is obvious: the human race. In between wiping out everything that we can’t make useful, either for sport, or because they’re food competitors, or because they’re in the way, or because we’re afraid of them, or yes actually to feed our ever-growing numbers, or simply because humans don’t need a reason to kill anything, it’s what we do; and simply not giving a damn about the consequences of our actions, we’re busily destroying pretty much all life on this planet. If this keeps up, we’ll be there sometime in the 22nd century, and that’s an optimistic estimate.

Sometimes, when people say that god put us here for a reason, we just don’t know its plan, I think that his plan has become fairly obvious: every couple of million years, god becomes bored with its creation and decides to wipe everything out to start over again.  This time, it just happens to be one of the species that does the wiping out, we, instead of an asteroid, or a change of atmospheric composition.

So, yes, there is an Extinction Event going on. And we’re it. And we’ll have wiped the slate clean for the next step in evolution, whatever is going to end up filling the ecological niches the mammals and birds and reptiles that we’re wiping out are freeing up, in about a hundred years or so.

By then, this planet will no longer support life as we know it. Who knows, it might be anaerobic microbes who will end up as the dominant species. Again. Because they were the dominant species before Earth developed oxygen, you know.

But, seriously: if we’re the Extinction Event for this geological era, don’t you think we should hurry this up and get it done? Anything else seems so needlessly cruel.

Oh, wait. I forgot who I’m talking to for a minute. Needlessly cruel, that’s us, that’s two very fitting words for the human race.

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