Special Opinion to the Mirror by Chas Cornweller
Gaia or Gaianism is the belief or philosophy that Earth is a superorganism. A living, breathing organism that changes slowly, deliberately over a period of millennia. Also, Earth can be seen as complex and multi-faceted within those deliberate evolutionary changes, moving and acting like a machine. And lastly, the Earth can be seen as a fragile, delicate spinning rock with a molten core, covered by a thin crust-like shell containing mountains, deserts, grasslands, forest, jungles and lakes while populated by literally millions of lifeforms and surrounded by oceans. Framing this sphere is a thin atmosphere, a mere 300 miles thick with most of its life sustaining attributes but a mere ten miles above the surface. Outside this protective layer lies the dimensions of space. Deep space being a hard vacuum both cold and hot (depending on your placement within or away from the sun’s rays) teeming with ultraviolet rays, radio waves, x-rays and radiation, all tearing constantly at the Earth. Protected by the Van Allen belt, which is produced by the rotating molten inner core acting much like a mechanical dynamo of the planet, much of life today persists and thrives under this same sun using its energies for a myriad of purposes. Without any of these factors in place, all life on this planet would desist immediately and permanently. Gaia is the belief that Earth is alive and not some random creation. It is as spiritual in a nature as man is spiritual in nature.
The factors that brought Earth to this current presence are both complex and extremely difficult to describe here, not to mention lengthy. Earth is over four point five billion years old. The earliest life acknowledged so far would take us back to several single cell species nearly four point two billion years ago. Life as we know it began to evolve nearly two point eight billion years ago as microbial life. From these simple life forms, multi-celled bacteria and protozoa grew and later evolved, beginning about four hundred million years ago, resulting in increasingly more and more complex lifeforms. Most, if not all of this life began in the oceans and tidal pools surrounding the emerging continents. Life, was beginning out of what once was nothing but molten rock and constantly bombarding asteroids and comets, bringing water from far flung areas of the newly forming solar system. Earth was becoming alive. Slowly, methodically…deliberately.
Fast forward to today. We have what we consider a modern mega-civilization. We have all of the accouterments for a thriving, socialized, well-planned modern and luxury driven civilization. One like no other before it. But one of many modern problems we have, is, our understanding of this rock we have built our wonderful society upon. In fact, we have become so successful at this, we have exploded our species to the point where it endangers our very existence. Hunger, pestilence, poisons, overcrowding, wars, migration, trash, spoilt oceans and lands all contribute to this crowding and harsh reality shining upon our accomplishments as a civilized society. The harm inflicted upon humanity upon this planet, is inflicted by our own shortsightedness’s. But, are we actually destroying this planet?
Re-wind with me a few thousand years. Back to 9,980 B.C. or nearly twelve thousand years ago. If you were standing upon the Great Plains of North America somewhere near (today’s) Topeka, Kansas and looked north by north-east you would have seen in the distance, a glacier wall as high as the Empire State building, perhaps higher. That is nearly three tenths of a mile high or one thousand and three hundred feet tall. Surrounding you would have been massive waves of Bison, Elk and Mastodon. Less likely to encounter, unless you were extremely unlucky, would be the Short-faced Bear, Smilodon, and Dire Wolf. In geological time, twelve thousand years is a very short period. So, fast forward again to today? Where is this massive ice sheet? Where is the Mastodon, the Dire Wolf? What happened and where did they go? There are many, many theories and speculations and the science are still being argued. But this much is known. During the period of twelve to eleven thousand years ago a huge uptick of ocean rise occurred. It has a name, Meltwater pulse 1B. The Mediterranean basin flooded and created the huge water body that is the Mediterranean Sea today. The water level in the Black sea rose over three hundred feet inundating villages and scores of peoples. The remains of these villages can be seen today lying over three hundred feet below the surface. The area between England and Europe known as Doggerland became fully submerged and lies at the bottom of the North Sea. The mega-fauna of the Mastodon, the Short-Faced Bear, the Dire Wolf and Smilodon disappeared, seemingly overnight. And an entire group of Native American, known today collectively as Clovis man by anthropologist and recognized as one of the older migrations of homo-sapien to the North American continent disappeared along with them. What would cause such a radical change of alteration of known landscape? What on earth had happened?
Just one hundred years ago, most if not all geologist and biologist held the collected view that Uniformitarianism was the criteria of all evolutionary change, both on Earth and Earth itself. Uniformitarianism is defined as a geological doctrine that states the current geological processes, occurring at the same rates observed today, in the same manner, account for all of Earth’s geological features. Thus, it assumes that geological processes are essentially unchanged today from those of the unobservable past, and that there have been no cataclysmic events in earth’s history. As present processes are thought to explain all past events, the Uniformitarian slogan is, “the present is the key to the past.” Many people, today, believe the same. But, most scientists, geologist and biologist know, today, that this thinking is both outdated and incorrect. The fact is, the Earth has gone through tremendous upheavals in the past and will continue to do so in the future. Mega-eruptions of Super-Volcanoes like the eruption of Krakatoa of Eastern Java in 1883 is a good example. But that pales in comparison to the Lake Toba eruption in the Sunda Arc, Indonesia some seventy thousand years ago. That eruption disrupted life to the extent that the entire known human population was killed off but to a few thousand. Thus, creating a population bottleneck of the human species caused by a volcanic winter that lasted anywhere from six to ten years followed by a thousand-year cooling period. In other words, the human race barely survived that event.
So, what dangers does Earth offer modern civilization? Well, for one, the Yellowstone Caldera which erupts every six hundred to eight hundred thousand years sit right in our backyard. The last eruption being six hundred and forty thousand years ago. How dangerous? If it were to erupt today, it would rain ash as far east as the Atlantic Ocean for weeks if not months. Ash would be as deep as six feet or more upwards to the Mississippi River basin. The entire world would experience a volcanic winter for years. And lying in wait off of the coast of the Canary Islands is a volcanic section called La Palma. Should the eruption of Cumbre Vieja volcano, in this section, occur; a landslide would collapse into the Atlantic and would send a wall of water three hundred feet high toward the East Coast, inundating everything inland for hundreds of miles in a matter of hours. This is not science fiction. This is science fact.
I have only mentioned a few of the ways the Earth can change our lives. I haven’t even mentioned climate change. I think we all have seen the results in the past twenty years and know of its effects. They are but a small blip on the spectrum of Earth’s dangers. But, what about extraterrestrial dangers? And no, chuckle, I’m not speaking of Aliens. I am talking about those pretty shooting stars we gaze up in wonder and watch every summer in August and September. They are bits of dust and small pebble sized meteors that burn up in the upper atmosphere producing a string of light that quickly extinguishes once played out. They are coming from an area science has named the Taurid Stream. Nice name, huh? The Taurid Stream is actually a component of two separate yet connected streams known as Southern Taurids (Sept-Nov) and the Northern Taurids (Oct-Dec). It takes several weeks to pass through each field and the stream is considered the largest stream of matter in the inner solar system. Think asteroid belt that is formed between Mars and Jupiter, except Earth passes through it. You see, the Taurid Stream is composed of an ancient comet named Encke. Encke broke up some thirty to forty thousand years ago and has been spreading out ever since. Many of these remnants cannot be detected by astronomers as they are hiding within the stream between the Earth and the Sun. But some have been detected and range in size anywhere between 200 and 300 meters (654 and 984 feet) in diameter. It is believed that the Tunguska event of 1908 over Siberia Russia was one of these Taurid remnants exploding fifty miles above the Earth. It literally flattened over eight hundred square miles of forest. Had it occurred over London or New York, millions would have died instantly. The asteroid was estimated at being between one hundred and sixty to five hundred feet in diameter, depending on its trajectory.
Could that happen today? Could a massive volcanic eruption occur, disrupting the food chain and wreaking havoc on civilization? Could the sun eject massive amounts of corona flares, destroying both high level and low-level orbiting satellites? Could those same coronal ejections rip apart our upper atmosphere, destroying part if not all of the ozone layer or possibly damage the Van Allen belt? Could a massive meteor or comet or a remnant of Encke hit the surface of this planet and take mankind down the path of the dinosaur? These are all distinct possibilities. These are also, all world as we know it, earth changing events. Have these happened in the past?
Let’s revisit the Mastodon and the Clovis Indian. Twelve thousand five hundred years ago, the North American continent teemed with both. Ten thousand years ago, they were no where to be found and the Atlantic Ocean had risen over three-hundred feet. The ice sheet that once covered both Northern Europe and North America had receded hundreds of miles. The southwest of North America was a vast marsh land full of lakes and swollen rivers. Eight thousand years ago, Northern Europe was disconnected by the North Sea. England was cut off from the continent to its east. A nomadic people were erecting stone pillars in multiple circles in Turkey in an area known as Gobekli Tepe. Many of those same people where living in homes built into the ground or basically living underground. Five thousand years ago, the Sahara Desert spread until it reached a small thriving civilization on the Nile River. It was once a thriving grassland and home to thousands of species of animals, including humans. So, what happened? What caused the ice sheets to recede at such a rate where they had once stood for thousands if not tens of thousands of years? What caused the sudden rise of the oceans and the flooding of the Mediterranean basin, along with the Aegean and Black Seas? What catastrophic event occurred to make such sudden and extreme changes, seemingly overnight? It wasn’t climate, although climate was obviously affected. It wasn’t volcanic, because only parts of the world were adversely affected while other parts hardly changed at all. Besides, volcanoes normally have a cooling effect not warming. What happened? And more importantly, why don’t we know?
And I am going to leave it at that. So, next time you are busy arguing whether climate change is real or if mankind can change the face of the world to the degree that the damage is irreversible, remember this article. We are but a speck on this blue orb. We are acting as if we are some deadly virus or behaving as a cancer, with very little causation to the realities of this planet. But, this Earth, she knows us. She has known for billions of years what change is coming and she will continue to know for billions more, long after we are gone. No, we have no dominion here. We have no more sovereignty over these oceans, these mountains, these forests and these vast grasslands than we have over one another. We have been given the gift of this garden. We treat it as a cesspool. The Earth knows this. And one way or another, she will rid herself of this pestilence.