Today is Mom’s birthday. Really. She’s 43 today. Well, actually closer to 4.5 billion, but who’s counting? What a pretty doodle Google has come up with today to celebrate! You can click on it and it will show the rising and falling moon, the cycle of the seasons, sweet fish, birds, flowers. For a few seconds you can almost forget the melting polar ice, vanishing forests, dying corals and the thousands of species that become extinct every year.
We are, in fact, in what is called the sixth extinction crisis, one created almost wholly by ourselves. Thankfully we weren’t around for the first five: The Cretaceous–Paleogene extinction event (bye bye Dinosaurs), the Triassic–Jurassic extinction event (bye bye Non-dinosaurs), the Permian–Triassic extinction event (the “Great Dying” – over 95% species wiped out), the Late Devonian extinction and the Ordovician–Silurian extinction event (my eyes just glazed over).
Of course I copied those from Wikipedia. You don’t think I can remember those names, do you?
What I can remember is the poor Dodo, the very symbol of extinction. Helpless, cute and tasty. A native of Mauritius, the bird lost its ability to fly, presumably because of the lack of predators. Oh, you fool, you! You should have kept your wings. Then you’d have had a chance against those ravenous Dutch sailors and their equally ravenous pigs. At least you’ll live on in our imagination. But what about the countless other species – plants, animals, insects, microorganisms – that keep disappearing? Some of which are not even known to us? What wonders have we lost, what potential medicines are now beyond our reach, what amazing feats of nature have we missed?
If there’s one thing that cheers me up on reading about past extinction events, it’s the realization that we simply cannot kill Mother Earth – not at our current level of technology, at least. We are a speck, a moment, in the vast history of her life. She will continue, with or without us. We can only kill ourselves. Hello dinosaurs!