I believe in Planet Earth as a living, breathing organism. It is a powerful “host plant,” on which human beings rely for survival along with millions of other species. Among numerous other dramatic events in its 4 billion-year history, was the collision with a large meteor 65 million years ago. Scientists know the six-mile-wide meteorite hit near the Yucatan Peninsula in Mexico around that time, and that it created the 112 mile-wide Chicxulub Crater. We can assume it was more than a slap in the face. The blast was 2 million times greater than the Hiroshima nuclear explosion. It rang the earth like a bell, causing earthquakes, volcanic eruptions and tsunamis worldwide. The “nuclear winter” caused by the impact lasted several years. Most species of animals on the earth became extinct, including the last of the dinosaurs and pterosaurs (pterodactyls). According to Wikipedia, the event coincides with the end of the Cretaceous Period and the start of the Paleocene Epoch—a time when mammals rapidly began to diversify.
Somehow, over time Mother Earth managed to repair herself. After a few years, the sun reappeared to warm the surface. Gradually, systems necessary for life were renewed. With a fresh atmosphere as vegetation returned, new species developed to replace those lost. At last, —possibly over a period of a million years—the planet began to look more like the one we recognize today. Miraculously, after a few million years more, human beings appeared. Although many of us have a secular view, we all see the rejuvenation of the planet as miraculous from both a scientific and a spiritual point of view.
Now, after all these millennia, the globe once again faces a crisis. This time the danger is not extra-terrestrial, but from insurgents within. One of the planet’s own residents has developed the capacity to cause substantial disruption by overuse of fossil fuels, thereby creating imbalance in the atmosphere. And habitat destruction worldwide is causing extinctions. This is to be expected—a natural tendency of a dominant species to use all resources available to enhance its own survival.
I view this new threat to Earth as a struggle between the “host organism,” and the dominant resident—human beings. The planet will likely survive this threat just as it has survived catastrophes in the past. In a few millenniums it will probably adjust to this “virus,” rebuild the damage to its atmosphere and climate, and continue to develop new species to replace ones lost. With or without humans, the planet will survive.
But wait…..there is a major difference between these crises and other emergencies. This time human beings have a power previously unknown on the planet. Even though we have been in residence only a short time, we have developed the intellectual capacity to call a truce in the hostilities. We can actually decide to stop abusing and overusing our resources before another mass extinction. Scientists say that we are able to reason our way to a solution. Religious scholars say it is our spiritual nature—our sense of ethics—that paves the way for us to make changes. Either way, the ability we have to change the world is one of the most miraculous of all the amazing things about human life on Earth. We can clean up our act. Our newfound power to choose is unique in the long history of the planet.
With our ethical nature combined with science and technology, we will change the course of planetary history. In my opinion, the powers of Faith and Reason are complimentary human elements. Moreover, I am confident that these two qualities of the human condition will enable us to avoid another “nuclear winter.” If we believe we can make the necessary changes, we will reduce our carbon footprint. Looking up into the heavens on a starry night, we see the obvious—we humans are one with Planet Earth and with the Universe, and we will succeed.
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