The world is going to end. We’re about 7.5 billion years away from Earth being absorbed into the sun. Humanity, like all other animals that have come before it, will go extinct, joining the 99.9% of preexisting matter in the ether. We are all doomed. I wanted to write on meaning, happiness and fulfilment, which begs the question – what’s the purpose?
For the record, I do not protest to be a great academic, scientist or scholar and all my fact checking was done through the galactic force that is Wikipedia and Google – not that it matters, as all records will be incinerated along with the Earth and all who might have remembered it.
The world is approximately 4.543 billion years old. In around 4 billion years, the earths temperature will have increased to the point that all life will have become extinct. That puts us existing, somewhere in the middle age of life on earth. We’re in a mid life crisis. As I lay awake in bed at night, the hours fall away like leaves at the end of autumn, mind wild, in the throes of an existential one. As the topic of climate change rages on, like the bush fires that ravaged Australia in 2019, the rainforests are still receding like a runaway hairline. No matter how much we try to comb it over, it’s not looking good. 85% of the earths existence has been during a greenhouse Earth – a period between ice ages, where temperature is high enough to prevent ice on the poles. Climate change is unavoidable, as humans, we can affect it by speeding it up or slowing it down, but some day, we are going to have to face it and the truth – we can’t escape it. If we plan to survive as a species, we will have to adapt and overcome by inventing ways to sustain life and prosper during a greenhouse Earth. Like cockroaches out of the rubble, debris and fallout of a nuclear blast, we will have to find a way to survive in inhospitable and uncompromising environments. The last ice age was around 2.7 million years ago and continues today. The planets climate fluctuates between two states – a greenhouse Earth and a icehouse Earth. During a greenhouse Earth, the continental ice sheets do not appear on either pole, with increased carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases. An icehouse Earth, in contrast, is a period such as now, where there are ice sheets in the north and south – the Arctic and Antarctic, respectively – as well as others, that grow or retreat during the glacial and interglacial periods which exist within the course of an icehouse Earth. There have been at least 5 major ice ages. The first was sometime over two billion years ago and the most recent, our ice age, present and ongoing today, started around 3 million years ago, with the current warmer interglacial period from approximately 11 thousand years ago. This tiny thread is woven into the tapestry of the Earths history and if we take a modest patch of 500 million years, it has been in a state of greenhouse Earth for 80%.
Wars have been waged, won and lost, kings crowned and legacies engraved in history, civilisations built and fallen, religions spawned and spread far across the globe, and all the bulk of human intellectual, industrial and technological advancement unleashed like the petrol from the nozzle of the pump, straight into the newest model of motor vehicle digital money can buy. The march of progress has become rampant – its tempo reverberating ferociously. It’s all happened within the proverbial blink of a green and blue, ever moving, terrestrial eye.
And then, there’s you and I.
Kicking off the bedsheets in the midst of another bout of existential dread, that plunders my stuffy throne room of content, in conceiving the demise of the human species, it’s monuments, technologies and ultimately, even its memory, I realise – I repeat the same thought, round and round they go, like the pedal on a bicycle, whizzing in circles in my conscious, powered by human energy – our progress is destined for the centre of the sun. It’s as inevitable as my own death. I don’t know whether that gives me solace or fills me with despair, knowing my mortality is shared with not only everyone that’s ever walked upon, but everyone that ever will, and obligatory, everything which exists within the Earths exosphere. We live in an amazing time, as complex as it is inspiring, teaming with life, love, kindness, creation, beauty and wonder – yet fickle, delicate and volatile, with war, disease, fear, heartbreak and desolation for some.
All this makes it ever so much more precious. There are many ways we could destroy or save ourselves, before we inexorably burn up.
So, what’s the purpose? I capriciously ask myself.
Today, as I sat, the sun lay the might of its celestial gaze on the tiny square of the back of my neck. At around 150 million kilometres away, it still kissed my skin and for a moment, I felt connected. I acknowledged, I am here.