Wednesday, March 14, 2007

geologic time

From the March 12, 2007 issue of The New Yorker:

"While the earth moves on toward the first mass extinction caused by a living species, debates about earlier ones are really unresolved."
John McPhee, "Season on the Chalk"

I'm a John McPhee-o-phile. I love his writing, his way with words. So I have to love geology too. Luckily, I find it interesting enough. Very calm, not sensational, the story just unfolds as you go along with him across the country or through the bogs or into the canoe....

In the sentence I quoted, he didn't say "global warming." He said "mass extinction." That's what I've been expecting. Mr. McPhee probably didn't intend to inspire my sentiments on the subject, which are basically, "What's the use!?" but he does reinforce them for me. It doesn't resonate for me that rinsing out my baggies and reusing them is going to make a difference.

Mass extinction. That's us and most of everything else too.

What will our layer look like? The tiny sea creatures of the cretaceous made a lovely white layer that produces exquisite champagne, not to mention the White Cliffs of Dover and all that. That other batch, those dinosaurs, they made the fuel that we used to drive us to where we are now. I suppose the champagne helped too.

What will our layer look like? Those other layers didn't have cars and houses and Empire State Buildings and USPS Sorting Facilities and Interstate 80 to layer with them. Just the creatures. I'll be in a layer with my roses and palm trees and and boston ferns.

What will they make of us?

1 comment:

Frank Baron said...

I don't know the man. I'll take your word that he's a fine writer but not so certain I'll accept his scientific conclusions.

If we're gone, who's going to examine our layer?

PS- Let's see another post or three in '07. ;)