Apocalypse Deja Vu: Been there, done that

So, I’ve got good news and bad news about the apocalypse. The good news: it’s happened before, the earth continued on, and it wasn’t Man’s fault. The bad news: it was still an event that wiped out about 95% of Earth’s marine life, and 70% of terrestrial species, which means adios for a good number of humans. It happened some 250 million years ago, and that matters to those of us living on Earth now because it could happen again.

Earth as seen from Apollo 17

Source: Earth, from Wikipedia and acobox.com

At least, that’s according to geoscientist Charles Henderson and his recent investigations into this ancient greenhouse ‘event’ that devastated Earth. I recently read an article in the local newspaper and noticed it had popped up on Yahoo on Henderson’s research (see later in the post where I’ve included links to the original articles).

I guess what struck me was that as much as I do believe that human civilization has a devastating effect on the earth and our environment – especially modern civilization with our massive population – and that somehow we’ll probably eventually bring about our own demise if we continue in such reckless disregard, I also find it somewhat comforting to think that perhaps it wouldn’t be our fault. Maybe that would make us like the dinosaurs, just another of Earth’s ages coming to an end, the Age of Man (although I still think the dinosaurs weren’t driving gas-guzzling vehicles as much nor enjoying much of an industrial age).

What I’m saying is that as humans, we’re often concerned about everything that has to do with us, and we don’t often consider that we’re not the only ones involved. The Earth likewise has its own cycles, and can play an active part in its own destiny even if these actions aren’t perhaps motivated in the same way human action is. The Earth has experienced multiple extinctions: Henderson and the related articles are just looking at one of the most devastating in terms of causing mass extinction, but this is far from the only event that has occurred.

“Estimates of the number of major mass extinctions in the last 540 million years range from as few as five to more than twenty. These differences stem from the threshold chosen for describing an extinction event as “major”, and the data chosen to measure past diversity.” – Source: Wikipedia, link to Wikipedia Article: “Extinction Event”

Basically, depending on who you’re talking to, it only “counts” as a mass extinction if the right number of species were wiped out. Man would only count as one. And, as much as we like to consider our own significance – because as far as scientific data goes we’re the only ones bothering to think about that sort of think – if we were all wiped out in another of Earth’s massive and potentially natural cycles, it might not even count as a “significant” extinction event.

That makes me wonder, of course, who would be doing the classification if we’re not around, but that would lead off to all sorts of unrelated tangents, so we’ll leave it as is. The point being, the apocalypse could be coming, and it wouldn’t even be our fault. Rather, it would be a natural, non-malevolent consequence of the planet we call home. Hmm. Not much better than getting obliterated by a chunk of space rock.

What do you think? Will we do ourselves in, or are our days already numbered before another world-wide mass extinction occurs?

Below I’ve included links to the two articles I happened upon originally, to let you make up your own mind. Thanks for reading, and have a great week.

Link to Edmonton Journal Article: “Long-ago greenhouse ‘event’ devastated Earth” by Margaret Munro

Link to Yahoo Article, from The Canadian Press: “Researchers pinpoint date, rate of Earth’s most extreme extinction” by Bill Graveland

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