It seems like science fiction. It seems impossible that we would destroy our planet and our future, but, we did. We have no idea how bad the effects of our brief exploitation of fossil fuel will be, over the next centuries and millennia.
Since it is going to be a completely different planet, it needs a new name. The UK Guardian reveals why Bill McKibben suggests we begin to call it “Eaarth”.
“There’s a slightly science fiction look to it; that’s appropriate in the sense it’s a little like a science fiction story: we wake up one day and the planet we have been used to for 10,000 years has 5% more moisture in the atmosphere, the sea is turning more acid. The only trouble is it’s not fiction.”
The 10,000 years helps us understand this. When I was a kid, we worried about the terrible problem of radioactive nuclear waste that would still be here in 10,000 years. Gradually, our perception of time horizons have closed in on us since then. Now we dare only look 50 or 100 years into the future, and no further.
We have stopped talking about 10,000 years ahead.
Cities like New York City have to plan for the beginning, of course. Scientists have to guess how bad the effects might be by 2100, our immediate future.
But sea levels won’t magically stop rising in 2100. Icecaps and glaciers won’t magically stop melting in 2100. The dust from drying continents won’t stop blowing away in 2100. Species won’t stop going extinct in 2100.
We’ve come 10,000 years as a group of civilizations. But to imagine as far ahead as we have been civilized is no longer an option. We no longer look as far forward as we can look back.
Now it seems almost quaint to care about radiation for those people 10,000 years into the future, as we know that much worse will befall them far, far sooner than that, thanks to our brief fling with fossil fuel. We bequeath Eaarth to them. Who knows what it will be, or how long humans can even survive on it?
After the Permian extinction 250 million years ago, this pig-sized creature almost had the planet to itself for 30 million years. The Permian extinction took about 5 million years to eradicate 95% of life on earth, leaving behind just a few species like the Lystrosaurus to dominate the planet.
Who knows what species will survive what we did to Eaarth? My guess? A jellyfish. They are already expanding in our new acidic ocean.
Images: FanPop and the Natural History Museum
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