In the Beginning
This week I’m looking back towards the beginning, rather than forward past my road fork into the future.
I’m not contemplating the big bang. I’m focusing on a more recent time when Earth, a molten mass of igneous rock with a newly formed crust, first revolved around the sun. It had an atmosphere, mostly nitrogen, carbon dioxide, and water, with some hydrogen and unknown amounts of oxygen. As Earth cooled, water condensed, fell to the ground, and collected in depressions, forming the oceans.
The hydrologic cycle evaporated water from the oceans. In the atmosphere, it condensed, forming clouds, and fell on the land. The precipitation eroded the rock and carried small particles and various ions to the ocean.
During billions of revolutions around the sun, lightning, heat, and solar radiation triggered chemical reactions that formed simple organic compounds. Eventually, something amazing happened. Those organic chemicals, now in larger numbers with greater structural diversity, gained the ability to reproduce themselves. They evolved into the plants and animals we now take for granted.
The next big thing occurred more recently, between 300,000 and 500,000 years ago. Modern man evolved from other early hominids. How did one species amongst millions develop such an ability to ponder the unknown and modify the natural world?
Carl Linnaeus, the father of the modern system of nomenclature for organisms, gave our species the name Homo sapiens. This Latin term translates as wise or discerning man, or as I would prefer, thinking man.
Thoughtfulness may have been an appropriate primary characteristic in the mid-seventeen-hundreds. Nowadays, doing man would be a more appropriate appellation.
In the past two hundred years of industrial and technological development, we’ve become obsessed with making anything and everything we can. We haven’t adequately considered whether we need it or can build and use it without destroying our environment.
So, this is where I am as I trudge along my Road to Environmental Armageddon. I’m thinking about the exploits of doing man. Let’s just do it and damn the consequences has become his mantra. And that, I would contend, is leading us down the Road to Environmental Armageddon.