The dinosaurs roamed the planet for 135 million years. They came in many species, from tiny, darting creatures, to huge hulking beings munching on Triassic grass. They were the pinnacle of creation, in this part of the universe, for such a long, long, long time. Their age dwarfs ours. The totality of human history is a pigmy in comparison. Only a blip, or squawk in time.
The Chinese love to talk of having a ‘long’ history: 5,000 years. The Human species itself, has only been for 300,000 years. We should be amazed, perhaps, that humans wrote nothing for 290,000 years. For aeons we only chatted, never leaving letters behind us recording thoughts and events. We only started painting caves 30,000 years ago. Still, this time of human muteness, which we might think of as a vast ocean of time, is only really a drop in some vaster ocean. It’s question of scale.
Still, those giant and wicked birds we call dinosaurs died out. There is no reincarnation for species or biological types. Even if you believe in sci-fi stories of cloning, the terrible lizards cannot come back, unless one clones a whole ecosystem. But can we clone the whole ecosystem? And where can we undertake this project if we still haven’t found another liveable planet? It is an impossible ambition.
The moving hand of the Universe, having written the history of life forms, can never be reversed. It’s a one way street. But for every species, the street they are on is always a cul-de-sac. The only question is this: will humanity be one of those species that lives fast and dies young? A brilliant creature, but with a short burn-out time. A comet in the sky with a fiery tail disappearing into the sea.
The question of climate change is fundamentally the question of human values. It’s not a scientific question. Why? Because the evidence that the come-lately species (humans) are causing it is overwhelming. Humans are smart enough to know that. But the human soul has another agenda. Human-centric value systems are the core of our environmental problems, and the scope of human moral vision is myopic to say the least. We creatures are bumping around, arms stretched out, smashing our surroundings. We really need to get our moral eyesight tested. But where will we get the corrective lenses required for moral focus?
No. The question of climate change is not a scientific one. It is a political one. It’s a question of our political structures. The political structures reflect a moral vision, a self-centered one, but also they reproduce the moral myopia. We also discovered capitalism, the ultimate greed machine for material satisfaction, given a little scientific know-how. The clever, live-fast die-young ape is so smart, it can outwit itself with its own social systems. We think we understand ourselves. But we have no idea really about what our humanity is. Yet we know enough to know that something is going off the rails. But we are not really interested in the knowledge. The moral myopia won’t let us focus on it.
If a dinosaur was writing this short essay, would he/she/it express their own din
osaur value system? I suppose yes. Would they be myopic? I suppose yes. But then they were such a long lived family of species. Maybe like ancient trees they would have grasped deep time, knowing its rhythms like deep ocean waves. Or maybe dinosaurs were dumb, but lucky. The cosmos doesn’t have a purpose of who should survive longer and who should not. It is a matter of pure chance
Maybe the cosmos does have a purpose. For the moment, it wants us to burn brightly, then turn to dust. And perhaps that’s enough. Who says we have to stick around? Humans disappearing may make way for new forms to emerge on this planet.
All things go the way of the dinosaurs.
And so it will be with us, perhaps. Because we are one of the patterns of nature.
Just as individuals die, so do species.
Nature is unknowable.
And there is no escape from nature.