As humans, we’re not very good at contemplating our own mortality, let alone the demise of our planet. And yet, eventually, everything comes to an end.
I found this National Geographic article fascinating, about how the dance of our tectonic plates will eventually grind to a halt as the Earth cools, which one scientist estimates will take place around 1.45 billion years from now. According to the article, this will lead to the failure of Earth’s magnetic field, our atmosphere will be stripped away, and the oceans will evaporate.
As scientist Ken Hudnut says, in a masterpiece of understatement, “There is not a lot to look forward to after plate tectonics’ demise”.
Not that we’re going to be around to have nothing to look forward to. We as a species will be long gone by then. It’s humbling to note that the “species most likely to survive” is the humble tardigrade, an eight-legged invertebrate that can survive for up to 30 years without food or water, can endure wild temperature extremes, radiation exposure, and continues unperturbed even when it finds itself in the vacuum of space. Having a big brain obviously isn’t the key to survival.
On a different subject, that somehow feels related, I was sad to hear from my mother about an act of mindless vandalism that took place at Brimham Rocks in Yorkshire, near where she lives, in which a 320-million-year-old rock formation was destroyed. A balancing sandstone rock was toppled off its crag, smashing apart when it hit the ground below.
Just to give you some idea of what a long time 320 million years is in the lifetime of the Earth, this is what geologists believe the world will look like a mere 250 years from now – one massive supercontinent, which they’re calling Pangaea Proxima. (Pangaea means “entire Earth”, Gaea being an alternative spelling of Gaia, the term that James Lovelock coined for the Earth as a self-regulating, complex system designed to maintain liveable conditions on our planet.)
So, in the overall scheme of things, I don’t suppose it matters too much that a group of vandals smashed a rock. In the year 250,002,018 A.D., when London is near the northernmost point of land, New York is smooshed up against Africa, and Australia has collided with China, their act of wanton destruction will have long paled into insignificance.
But in the short term, I can’t help feeling that we as humans have lost something, and it’s more than just a balancing rock – it’s a reverence for this amazing planet that we are lucky enough to call home.
Thanks for the fantastic response to my request last week for additional speaking engagements in the US. Miriam now has her work cut out to weave all the jigsaw pieces into a plan. I hope to see many of you in October/November this year!
Next week I’m off to Toronto to take part in the SEEDS Leadership Program, and have a few meetings. I’ll also be taking part in the first global simulcast by SheEO, using radical generosity to support female entrepreneurs.
So no blog post next week, but I’ll report back the week after.
Until then, be well, and respect nature!