Some perspectives in time and space

Doc Searls Weblog 2013-05-09

Los Angeles at nightFirst, time.

Earth became habitable for primitive life forms some 3.X billion years ago. It will cease to be habitable in another 1 billion years or less, given the rate at which the Sun continues to get hotter, which it has been doing for the duration.

Species last, on average, a couple million years. Depending on where you mark our own species start, we are either early or late in that time span.

If you mark our start from the dawn of the Anthropocene — now being vetted as a name for the geological epoch in which human agency is as obvious as that of other natural agents in Earth’s story, such as asteroid collisions, volcanic outpourings and radical weather changes — we’re about ten thousand years into this thing. We’ve done a lot in not very long.

From a pained perspective, the Anthropocene is a time of pestilence by a single species — one with an insatiable hunger for what that species calls “natural resources.” To test that pain, give a listen to “When the music’s over,” on the Strange Days album by The Doors. In it Jim Morrison sings,

What have they done to the Earth? What have they done to our fair sister? Ravaged and plundered and Ripped her and bit her. Stuck her with knives in the side of the dawn and Tied her with fences and Dragged Her Down.

From a disinterested perspective, dig Robinson JeffersThe Eye, written during World War II from Tor House, his home in Carmel overlooking the Pacific:

The Atlantic is a stormy moat; and the Mediterranean, The blue pool in the old garden, More than five thousand years has drunk sacrifice Of ships and blood, and shines in the sun; but here the Pacific– Our ships, planes, wars are perfectly irrelevant. Neither our present blood-feud with the brave dwarfs Nor any future world-quarrel of westering And eastering man, the bloody migrations, greed of power, clash of faiths– Is a speck of dust on the great scale-pan. Here from this mountain shore, headland beyond stormy headland plunging like dolphins through the blue sea-smoke Into pale sea–look west at the hill of water: it is half the planet: this dome, this half-globe, this bulging Eyeball of water, arched over to Asia, Australia and white Antartica: those are the eyelids that never close; this is the staring unsleeping Eye of the earth; and what it watches is not our wars.

There is also this, from Jeffers’ “The Bloody Sire” :

Stark violence is still the sire of all the world’s values.

What but the wolf’s tooth whittled so fine The fleet limbs of the antelope? What but fear winged the birds, and hunger Jewelled with such eyes the great goshawk’s head?

Our teeth, right now, wing limbs and jewell eyes we will never see.

And the life here will end, perhaps in less time than has passed since the planet made half the rocks in the Grand Canyon‘s layer cake.

Now, space.

Astronauts speak of the “Overview_effect” that leaves them changed by seeing Earth from space.

I’ve made do with what I can see from the stratosphere while flying in commercial aircraft. It was from that perspective, for example, that I’ve documented effects of strip mining in the Anthropocene.

Ironies abound. My photo series on coal mining in the Powder River basin has been used both for pro-environmental causes and to promote business in Wyoming.

I’ve got more on this, but neither time nor space for it now.

Bonus link.

And more on the Anthropocene:

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