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Fragile Terra

by

Martha Adams

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As soon as the idea appears of a Great Filter and of all its possibilities, one thinks, maybe we want to pull in our heads, be very quiet, and stay out of space. This is in fact, bad thinking, because worse awaits us if we stay home.

* * *

A (fortunate) small child believes that beyond any question, the world it sees existed for all time and may be relied upon to continue so. As early development finishes, the rational adult to-be outgrows this child's perception that reality is simple and fixed.

Regrettably, however, that natural childhood perception has become embedded as a central concept of faith-based, religious institutions. This is how most humans in today's world not only do not see its dynamic and temporary character, but thru an Orwellian process, they cannot see it. Thus my topic here of Terra's fragility, may surprise some people or even provoke angry dissent.

* * *

This concept of Terran stability is flawed because a little science research shows it's false. Almost within memory of living humans, we have Terra's "Little Ice Age," from about 1300 to 1850 AD. With three warmer interludes, Terran weather in the northern hemisphere (the southern hemisphere's weather was less well recorded) was much more cool than lately. This had consequences which appear in our history books. It's why the Viking settlement in the 1300's of Greenland failed. There were winters in the 1800's when you could walk on the ice from Manhattan to Staten Island in New York City. As I write, we seem to be in a period of warming climate change, caused by ourselves, whose consequences we don't know.

Our perception our world is stable seems to me to rest in large part upon the basic that immense natural processes usually proceed at a slow rate compared to our personal human experience and lifespans. However. Immense natural processes did not stop just because humans turned up on the local scene. Just for perspective, think of today's climate instability and the foreseeable consequences of our own abuse of our environment. Or of the "small" planetary collision that put Luna in our sky. There are those infalling small objects that we see as nighttime "shooting stars." And perhaps not least, the curious linear earthquake a few years back, near Australia, that seems to have originated from the passage thru Terra of a tiny piece of strange quark matter.

On a longer time scale, Michael Benton writes of "When Life Almost Died" in his book of that title. Could something of such major magnitude happen again? Today's best thinking is, Yes, it could, and it's going to. We just don't know when nor the details of it. We do know that when it comes, it could be even more total than Benton writes of.

"We'll be fine..." is flawed, also, because it fails to take into account costs to repair or survive if something "unlikely" ...happens. Events recently in the news suggest modern society responds poorly against such challenge. Look at New Orleans, for example, in today's America.

And in recent history, major human cultures in Africa and in Mexico and South America have taken bad hits from local climactic change. Then they perished following the European cultures intrusion into their regions. Things happen, and we can't reasonably believe we're proof against all possible bad futures. And one must conclude, we don't necessarily get things back together again afterwards. In reality, things happen.

* * *

A thing happening as I write is climate change. Terra seems to be entering a period of serious climate change. Over 2000 - 2008, the Republican administration in power then in America, dealt with this reality by denying it and by censoring knowledgeable people who spoke about it. Of course, this change goes on whatever those Republicans do, and it's gone far enough now that we can see how unexpectedly fast parts of our Terran ecology respond to it. (Our forests are walking!) This is civil tumult and disaster in the making -- you want to follow the news on it. Yet it is one of the least of ways Terra could change.

For a short list of possible disastrous events that could strike Terra, see en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Disaster#Causes_of_hypothetical_future_disasters. This Wiki's entries are "relatively minor" but links there lead to discussions of possible events that could make Terra permanently uninhabitable or destroyed. (Which astronomically infinitesimal event would not concern the rest of this universe at all.)

Thus one can see the 'Great Filter' topic as good reason to remain very quietly on Terra; and and the 'Fragile Terra' topic as compelling reason to expand beyond Terra ASAP. I think there's no contest at all between these topics. Keeping all our racial eggs in this one basket named Terra, is probably a terrible, terrible mistake.

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