Life on Earth can survive any man made disaster. But will we?
The fluctuating state of global weather is a topic on many people’s minds, and a source of conflict based on varying opinions. Does the Kyoto Protocol (and protocol extension) go too far, or not far enough when it comes to diminishing global greenhouses gases? What about countries that withdrew from the treaty (Canada), or failed to meet their emission reduction pledges, or weren’t all that thrilled with the deal in the first place (the USA)?
When examining this issue, we should be mindful of the commentators and scientists who look at climate trends based on a yearly basis, by the decade, century or even by the millennia. What is the true measure of change when it comes to planetary weather patterns? There are some pundits who believe the Earth is basically a limitless system, capable of absorbing almost any amount of man made contamination injected into it. Mother Nature heals all wounds … although now that I think about it, these global warming naysayers might be onto something.
Hold onto your ‘Friends of the Earth’ indignation for just a moment. I am by no means siding with the folks who preach that global warming is only a theory, and maybe a myth, but that doesn’t mean they can’t be right about a few things. Part of the popular dogma climate change deniers cling to is that it’s absurd to believe human activity can affect the planet to such a degree that temperatures rise, or that we can even ‘save’ the Earth in the first place. I wholeheartedly agree with the latter point. The best we can hope for is to save ourselves, and maybe a few other species while we’re at it.
Massive meteorites have collided with the surface of the planet in the past, darkened the skies, set off cataclysmic global events (extreme heat, cold, fire raining down from the sky), wiped out entire species, polluted the water, melted glaciers and altered planetary evolutionary patterns in severe ways. Yet through it all, life somehow survived.
Even if we threw the worst we’ve got at the Earth by instigating a global or regional nuclear war, life would go on. Paradoxically, as terrible as the idea of a thermonuclear war might seem, the dense carbon clouds produced from such a conflict could feasibly reverse global warming fairly quickly (oh, the irony). You might think that kind of calamitous scenario has about as much of a chance of happening as pigs flying, but it’s not that far fetched. All you have to do is consider the complex regional alliances and rivalries of countries like India, Pakistan, Iran and Israel, not to mention some of the former Soviet republics, getting out of hand. Of course, the pigs sprouting wings in any potential post-apocalyptic future would most likely be Day-Glo green, with three eyes, two tongues and a second nose where their curly tails used to be.
Irrespective of the activities of mankind bringing about severe droughts, rising sea levels, destructive super storms or a nuclear winter, the actions we choose to take now, or put off until a later date, won’t affect the planet much in the long run. Heck, even weapons-grade Plutonium-239 only has a half-life of just over 24,000 years. While that might seem like a long time to a bipedal mammal with a lifespan of less than 100 years, it’s nothing for a celestial body as robust as the Earth to wait out.
What this means, in the pragmatic sense, is that if the ocean levels continue to rise and the great deserts continue to expand, humanity’s continued existence will become extremely problematic, although not necessarily impossible, to manage. Maybe, just to be on the safe side, we should all look at, and seek to limit our adulterating impact on the planet, regardless of our socio-religious or political stance on the subject, just in case the climatological science isn’t that far off the mark. The planet will thrive in one form or another, with or without us. The ‘with’ part is, by and large (sorry to say, giant asteroids do exist) up to us.
Image credit: FlyingSinger/Flickr