It is being said that the man-made epoch we are currently going through could lead to surprisingly different ages of evolution.
On the occasion of Yuletide in 1968, Apollo 8 astronaut William Anders took a photograph of the scene from his spacecraft while in orbit around the moon.
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The image shows half of our planet like a big blue marble. The darkness of space surrounding the beautiful sapphire-like planet of ours shows it to be a fragile and precarious world.
The take-home message for our species was to show greater compassion and caring behavior for our planet and the life forms extant on its surface.
It has been about 50 years since that fateful day in time. Countless images of the planet earth – or spaceship earth to be exact – have reached us human beings thanks to more missions to the moon and beyond.
The question is what an alien would have made of our planet and its 4.5 billion year history. How could that alien have made sense of what went on in our home planet?
Through 99.99% of the time, the planet would have shown very gradual transitions between different epochs.
The continental drift and Ice Ages would have shown up somewhere along the line. The succession of various species from the saber-toothed tiger to the woolly mammoth would have been obvious too.
Yet the past millennium would have stood out by its sheer rate of change. This is a minimal portion of the earth’s history. If the earth’s entire past were like a minute on the clock, this time period would be a fraction of the last second.
The changes in this particularly man-made era, known as the Anthropocene, are so huge and monumental that it deserves a different name. Since the last Ice Age, things have radically transformed on our planet.
Human civilization has spread to all corners of the earth. The changes brought about by humans include the agricultural revolution, the industrial revolution and the current post-industrial revolution.
The use of concrete and metal as well as glass in architecture not to mention the domestication of animals are significant changes brought about by mankind. The proliferation of unnatural substances such as plastics is another, according to the Guardian.
Finally, the hypothetical alien would have noticed the sending of rockets and probes into space. Do all these rapid trends show trouble looming ahead or are they to be taken normally as they come?
While the past was all about survival, today it is all about progress. The world’s population explosion and the resulting eco-shock are evident signs of catastrophe. Yet every cloud has a silver lining.
Human beings, as stewards of this planet, can navigate the dire straits and lead the way to a post-human era where there is more justice and equality rather than the sheer exploitation of all the species by one species alone.
Biology and electronics could combine (as they already have) to create bionics. It is in this direction that humanity is headed. Also our salvation as a species lies in this direction alone.