Our climate models may be missing something big, warns Peter Brannen, author of Ends of the World, for The Atlantic “Our planet is fickle. When the unseen tug of celestial bodies points Earth toward a new North Star, for instance, the shift in sunlight can dry up the Sahara, or fill it with hippopotamuses,” writes Peter Brannen. “Of more immediate interest today,” he observes, “a variation in the composition of the Earth’s atmosphere of as little as 0.1 percent has meant the difference between sweltering Arctic rainforests and a half mile of ice atop Boston. That negligible wisp of the air is carbon dioxide.”
“We were stunned when the astronauts revealed in 1969 the beauty of our planet seen from space. It took Arthur C. Clarke, the science fiction writer and inventor, to observe how wrong it was to call this planet Earth when, clearly, it is Ocean,” says futurist James Lovelock, originator of the Gaia theory that views Earth as a living organism. “Despite being fifty years ago, this discovery that we live on an ocean planet is only just beginning to penetrate the dusty science of geology. It is shameful that we know far more about the surface of Mars and its atmosphere than we know about parts of our oceans. It is also risky.”
In the past 540 million years, the Earth has endured five mass extinction events, each involving processes that upended the normal cycling of carbon through the atmosphere and oceans. These globally fatal perturbations in carbon each unfolded over thousands to millions of years, and are coincident with the widespread extermination of marine species around the world.
Check out today’s eclectic coverage of programs broadcast and streamed on the (occasionally “far side”) state of affairs on our pale blue dot, signaling our existence to possible exo-civilizations.
“FM signals and those of broadcast television travel out to space at the speed of light. Any eavesdropping alien civilization will know all about our TV programs (probably a bad thing), will hear all our FM music (probably a good thing), and know nothing of the politics of AM talk-show hosts (probably a safe thing).” –Neil deGrasse Tyson, Death By Black Hole
The mass extinction brought about at the end of the 50-million-year-long Permian period, brought about the end the entire Paleozoic era, in progress since the dawn of animal life. The Paleozoic, with its ancient seas filled with trilobites, brachiopods, and strange reefs, was as starkly different from the age to come as the age of dinosaurs is from our world today.