Humans and Earth: My Thoughts on ‘Earth Then and Now’

In Earth: Then and Now, we see “before and after” photos of sites around the world that have experienced massive change, both for better and for worse. Ready? Then let’s get started…

Okay. So. Here’s the world…

earth then and now fred pearceSo honestly, there wasn’t really that much TO this book. After a short foreword and introduction, the only significant text was a brief section intro page before each collection of photo pairs — so I’ll share a quick thought and then some photos and we’ll call it a day.

I somewhat expected this book to make a pretty strong case for — well, anything. But I was surprised to find it actually coming off pretty neutral. The author stated his thesis right out the gates:

Is there a final lesson here? I think so. Nature is not as fragile as we think. She is resilient. With time, she may recover from the worst we can throw at her. It is we, ultimately, who are the fragile ones. Look at these pictures and fear not so much for nature: fear for us. (p.18)

I actually totally agree with this statement. While I do think that ecosystems and species (including us…) are fragile, I think that Nature / Earth as a larger entity is way bigger and more resilient than any craziness we can cook up. I mean, all this life is still here even after giant meteors and whatever else made alllllll the dinosaurs go extinct. So I think that life on earth will survive… it’s just whether human life on earth will survive, or for which humans, or for how long.

That said, once the author made that point it was pretty much a fairly even spread of good news / bad news photos. Here’s one of the “good news” pairs:

ozone then and now

Good news: Seems the Earth is able to heal its ozone layer from the hole we burned in it. Hooray!

Of course, then there’s some bad news as well, like the massive drainage of the Aral Sea that turned most of it into a desert…

Aral Sea then and now

Where folks used to fish for food, now they raise cattle. Think about THAT for a minute.

And, a “bad news” a little closer to home — the much-disputed Tar Sands mining operation in Canada, from a beautiful sunlit forest to a dystopian slurry-field…

Tar Sands then and now

A pretty sweet world, you might say…

After all these photos, really I just return to the author’s (and my ) original point: yes, humans are capable of causing massive transformation, for better AND for worse. But even if we try our hardest to ruin everything, the Earth will live on. That sentiment is, I think, quite aptly captured by this photo pair:

Chernobyl then and now.jpg

Yep, that’s Chernobyl, still too radioactive to be safe for humans but being slowly reclaimed by the forest. (Nausicaa, anyone??)

Bottom line: We are simply one in an array of God’s wondrous creations. Whether we’re living, breathing participants or returned to dust, God’s good plan will continue.

And with that, I’m now off to start reading my next and final book in this reading project — Plastic-Free: How I Kicked the Plastic Habit and How You Can Too. I’m excited for some really practical stuff to conclude this journey!

[P.S. Thanks to “The End of the World” video for my header titles. What weird, bizarre little throwback to high school! (“But I am le tired…” “Well, go take a nap. THEN FIRE ZE MISSILES!”)]

One thought on “Humans and Earth: My Thoughts on ‘Earth Then and Now’

  1. The idea that “the earth is resilient [to just about anything we can muster]” sort of, from my standpoint, assume that runaway warming and the “Venus Effect” aren’t possible.

    Basically the idea(s) that we can have a tipping point after which it gets too hot for carbon-trapping plants to live in certain areas (equatorial jungles), so they die and release THEIR carbon (and methane and other greenhouses)… until the same happens further and further from the equator, until perhaps even the poles are scorched and we’re essentially a gas – and – rock planet. That idea.

    (I’m not saying that idea is true. It seems like mainstream / U.N. discussions about this talk about a 6-degree-celsius rise, and talk less about a hellish venus doomsday.)

    NOW… maybe even the effect I just described indeed doesn’t violate his statement that “earth is resilient”, if we can hope that, say, some of our volcano/geothermal dwelling bacteria (“extremophiles”) are able to adapt and survive and so we don’t have to wait another N billion years for life to re-emerge, but just a few billion for it to rebuild what we might call a biosphere, and in its ability to regrow that biosphere, we can say that life on earth is resilient. … Volcanoes throw carbon dioxide in abundance, so we can assume that the air wouldn’t be more carbon-y than previous, so in theory life would be better off, not worse off, at regrowing than before.

    Sure. So the earth and its life are resilient; our extremophilic bacteria would likely/hopefully carry earth-life through even a Venusian inferno — but we, a “fragile” species, would be long gone by then.


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