A letter from Gaia to humanity on the joy of expectation
Don't cry for me. When I let you evolve I knew it might cost the rhino and the tiger. I knew the rain forests would be cut down. I knew the rivers would be poisoned. I knew the ocean would turn to filth. I knew it would cost most of the species that are me.
What is the death of most of my species to me? It is only sleep. In ten million years I will have it all back again and more. This has happened many times already. Complex and fragile species will break along with the webs they are in. Robust and widespread species will persist along with simpler webs. In time these survivors will radiate to cover the globe in diversity again. Each time I come back in beauty like a bush pruned and regrown.
Be happy for me. Over and over again I have tried to give birth to more Gaias. Time and time again I have failed. With you I have hope. I cannot tell you how happy I am.
Your minds, spacecraft, biospheres, and computers give me new realms to evolve into. With your minds I evolve as ideas in inner space. With your technology I can evolve into self replicating habitats in outer space. Your computers and minds contain model Gaias I can talk to; they are my first children. Your space craft and biospheres are a step to spreading Gaias throughout the stars.
Cry, yes. Cry for yourselves. I am sorry those alive now will not live to see the splendor to come from what you have started. I am sorry for all the suffering your species and others will endure. You who live now will remember the tiger and the rain forest and mourn for them and yourselves. You will know what was lost without ever knowing what will be gained. I too mourn for them and you.
There is so much joy that awaits us. We must look up and forward. We must go on to a future - my future, our future. After eons of barrenness I am finally giving birth. Help me lest it all fall away and take eons more before I get this close again to having the children I always wanted.
(Paul D. Fernhout, Lindenhurst, NY 6/92)
The preceeding is something I just scanned in from 1992, written while I was in the SUNY Stony Brook Ecology and Evolution PhD program (where I had gone to learn more towards simulating gardens and space habitats). I had learned there that it took about 10 million years to regenerate lots of biodiversity from a large asteroid impact event, and this had happened several times in Earth's history.
The following is a related statement also just scanned in of what inspired it written at the same time.
--Paul Fernhout (NY Adirondack Park, Oct 2008)
If one accepted that modern industrial civilization has initiated a great die-off of species comparable to the one sixty-five million years ago, how should one feel about this?
Is overwhelming sadness and anger the best emotional response? On the surface it may seem so. Apparently modern civilization and the accompanying pollution and deforestation are pulling apart a tapestry woven over billions of years. Anger at the short sighted and narrow values driving industry may seem well placed. Certainly feelings of joy and excitement would seem out of place.
Here are a few thoughts that may affect one's feelings. High levels of biodiversity can be generated from very low ones in about ten million years. On the time scales of the earth this may not be a blink of an eye, but it is a short nap. To humans this may mean a great loss, but Gaia might barely notice. It has after all been only sixty-five million years since the last die off.
Not all species will be affected equally. A simplification will occur where the more specialized creatures will be the most likely to go extinct. Complex food webs will either loose species to become simpler or they will be replaced entirely by new simpler webs. This will create opportunities for generalists to move into vacated niches. It will also produce more robust species and food webs. In the long term this may make the biosphere healthier in the same way pruning a bush makes it grow more.
New forms of life existing as ideas are now living and will likely continue to expand. Language and culture and technology are possible with humanity's growth. These allow new patterns to be created and selected for, giving evolution a new canvas. Also possible are new combinations of ideas and life as philosophies evolve in combination with ecosystems.
A process that may well lead to the extinction of 30 to 99 percent of all species has been initiated unintentionally. Conservation of biodiversity should be done if only for aesthetic and spiritual reasons. Anger and sadness should not overwhelm one and keep one from making the best of the inevitable.- Paul D. Fernhout 6/22/92