I was watching with interest the other night Jon Stewart's interview of Elizabeth Kolbert, author of a new book, The Sixth Great Extinction.
There have been five great extinction events in the past 550-million years of multi-celled life on Earth, events in which abnormally
large numbers of species die out simultaneously or within a limited time frame. The last, and best known, was the Cretaceous-Tertiary event which wiped out the dinosaurs, caused by a massive comet or meteor striking the Earth 65
Stewart's interview had me pondering legacies, not mine I hasten to say, but our species'. Over the great span of geologic time, Homo sapiens will leave a legacy, and what a tragic legacy it is shaping up to be. We are becoming the cause of one of the six greatest die-offs of life on Earth in over half a billion years—a destroyer of worlds.
Yet we are a moral creature and a reasonably intelligent one. One might think such a creature would pause in its activity, and reflect on what it will leave for posterity—its own posterity and the posterity of its home, the planet Earth. But there is little evidence of such reflection. Our leaders are obsessed with growth, of wringing ever more out of the planet and despoiling it in the process.
I have always been an optimist, but I see little room for optimism as I observe the destroyer of worlds march down its awful road. If we don't pause in our obsessions, reflect on our wayward ways, and apply our innate morality to our ambitions, our legacy will be dark indeed.