Florence Shore – End of the World as We Know It

 

  An interesting article in the current Economist (5/24-6/3) reminds us that before Copernicus, it was thought that the earth was at the center of the universe and that we upon it were all thus imbued with God’s grace.  As the sciences evolved the perception of our position devolved to the point where, well, that “we are stardust”.

  Yep, old news.  The point of view now gaining traction though is that humankind has assumed the central role debunked long ago – at least insofar as our planet is concerned. Clear cut forestry, strip mining, large scale farming, carbon based energy etc and all the related ramifications are “bringing about an age of planetary change”.

  Geologists call the more or less discrete (geologically, meteorologically, etc) epoch in which we’ve been for the last 10,000 years the Holocene.  Scientist Paul Crutzen came to the belief that the wake the coming of man left behind has begun to shape something new.    He’s suggested we call the new age the “Anthropocene”.

  I was thinking about this the other day while in the bank with MD erstwhile geologist brother when he pointed out the ‘captured’ fossil pictured above on an interior wall.  He said it was a “cephalosomething” embedded in metamorphic limestone aka marble. He went on to say that some buildings and groups of buildings (college campuses e.g.) have maps and guidebooks locating and describing incredible arrays of such stuff.  The Burgess Shale as interior decoration!

  I realized that at some distant point in the future these buildings will have collapsed into the ground, archaeology will sort of transmute into paleontology, and given the trajectory of the average level of intelligence worry that whoever is doing the research be really confused. “How did this cephalosomething get here?  They went extinct eons before the other stuff in this layer…”

  I follow the logic above, but hesitate to adopt the new perspective.  There are too many dopes around who will get the wrong idea.  Might even think the changes we’ve wrought are something of which to be proud.  In 2005 Patagonia founder and environmentalist Yvon Chouinard said: “Forty-eight percent of people in America still don’t believe in evolution… don’t believe in global warming because it relies on scientific interpretations of core samples that are hundreds of thousands of years old, and they think the earth is only six to ten thousand years old”*.

  Some of us are even dimmer.  Jersey Shore is in its fourth season.  They’re in Florence!  People watch.  Rest my case.**

*Alpinist 12 Autumn 2005

**OMG It gets worse.  On NPR with Terri Gross Newsweek journalist Maziar Bahari describes being beaten in Teheran’s notorious Evin prison while his torturer asked about New Jersey – his interest having been piqued by the show.

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