Been watching a series of BBC nature shows over at Hulu.com (HuluPlus subscription required—and worth it). Also had a great time with Neil DeGrasse Tyson’s Cosmos series over the last three months. And yes, there’s a relationship.
Life is the relationship. Whether it’s known life here on planet Earth, or speculated life on, say, Jupiter’s moon Europa, life is extremely tenacious. It’s amazing to me that even when the environment seems quite hostile (volcanic vents at the bottom of the ocean or high deserts in South America), some form of life seems to inevitably figure out a way to survive.
People worry about the fragility of life, usually when they are talking about individual species that seem to be threatened by human activity, and an individual species (not to mention individuals within a species) can be very fragile indeed. But life as a whole is probably the most persistent self-replicating form of matter in the universe. In the Cosmos series, Tyson talked about several mass extinctions on the Earth, and one of them knocked out about 90 percent or maybe more of all species (not an asteroid hit, that one, but volcanism). And yet, and yet, each loss created opportunities for new life forms to develop.
This truth does not mean that I think we should disregard the plight of pandas or spotted owls or not care about the balance of wildlife and human life on Earth, but just think about the possibilities if life is so tenacious. Chances are good, then that some form of carbon-based life exists outside of Earth, in the oceans of Europa, or even in the thick methane atmosphere of Saturn’s moon, Titan. And those are just two examples from our solar system. Who knows what life forms exist beyond that?
One thing to keep in mind, though, is that life doesn’t have a particular attachment to any specific form, so if we humans want to continue on into future generations and also have access to both the utility and beauty created by the other life forms around us now, we will have to take the actions necessary to support the environment that supports us.
As always, our world is entirely up to us.