I’m one of those people who tends to think everything happens for a reason. I’m also one of those people that thinks that what we like to call “Mother Nature” has got it all figured out. After billions of years of evolution from a probably lifeless planet to a complex web of life that humans will never have the capacity to intellectually understand, sometimes I wonder why humans are here. What is our place?
Did we evolve into this species to create all this destruction? After learning about the previous mass extinctions, sometimes I wonder if humans are just here to sort of clean everything out so she can start again with the mega-hardy organisms that happen to keep surviving these mass extinctions.
Earlier in time, humans still altered nature, but in a more positive manner.An example would be the Native Americans using fire to keep succession at an early stage. They did this because an early stage of succession is the stage that provides the most wild food items. But their work also did things like keeping oak trees alive for decades, even centuries, longer than they would have lived in a setting directed solely by mother nature. If we had stayed on that path, things would be much different. But we didn’t. Why?
Here’s an idea. Around 300 million years ago, plants, and marine organisms, after completing their normal life processes of converting energy from the sunlight into food while inhaling atmospheric carbon or (in the case of the organisms) consuming those autotrophs, died and fell to the bottoms of swamps and oceans. They would eventually become buried deep under water, minerals, and soil; and immense amounts of pressure would turn the energy the plants had gathered from the sun into super-dense energy in the form of fossil fuels.
That energy (which, as you recall, is never created nor destroyed but always moves towards entropy) has been locked up under the Earth since then, until humans discovered it. Since that discovery, we have been ravenously extracting and burning this oil. We have been unlocking the carbon from below, and releasing it into the atmosphere.
Carbon is the building block of life. Currently, too much of the carbon we have released is still in the atmosphere, causing drastic global temperature change that, if we continue on this trend, will likely result in the demise of our species and many others.
However, we could alter this path and recapture the energy we released into the form of life, thus turning once locked up energy into even greater quantities of life on Earth.
But, we are doing it wrong. Aside from burning fossil fuels, we are also releasing carbon from our soil when we plow and till, from our trees when we clear-cut forests, from the animals as we continue to kill off species, and so on. We are creating more entropy.
But there are ways to sequester carbon. We can stop cutting trees and start planting more, a lot more. We can build organic matter in the soil by discontinuing plowing and planting more sustainable crops. The more carbon we take out of the air and put back into some sort of life, the more we improve our chances of survival and possibly the fulfillment of our purpose.
Think about it. What if humans evolved in Mother Nature’s plan to create life by unlocking nonliving carbon and turning into living carbon. What if our job was to create life instead of destroy it? It’s okay, we still have time to do it. But we need to drastically alter our path, and we need to do it now.
P.S. We need to stop burning so much fossil fuel.