Saturday, October 16, 2010

Reasons For Inaction

There really are no reasons to be dead beyond being physically deceased. But many times I view the world, thinking about what I might have to say about it, unable to really think of anything worthwhile. And other times I am filed with anxiety to blabber whatever nonsense my frenzied mind can generate. 

The extinction of the planet is always an interesting topic, if not realistic as a coffee table magazine. If I just rattle of a few examples of what might extinct our species, or even just our civilization, it just sounds like desperate paranoid ramblings. Short of the Sun exploding, there is probably nothing that could just suddenly extinct our planet of all life. Perhaps all higher forms of complex organisms could be blown away by some kind of distant star going supernovae and a concentrated gamma beam irradiating us by accident. That is unlikely.

Certainly, when all factors are considered as having equal probability, then the Chicken Little type of scenario is very easy to propagate. Yet, our own actions as individuals has more effect on our survival and for the common survival of mankind. If everyone thought and acted that same, it would be very easy to either over-populate the planet or under-populate our species, either of which would be possible to impact us negatively. Yet there are so many pluses and minuses in the patchwork of humanity that there is only a slight advantage of births over deaths over the long, long term. 

Things like that are not exactly changed by individual action. I cannot simply refuse to have children and effect the graph very much whatsoever. I could also immediately commit suicide, which would also barely register above the background noise, if at all. It takes a large group, such as China deciding to limit births to 1 per household. That had unintended consequences, although it was obvious that such a culture where the male inherits all important aspects of the family, that females would be scrapped in one way or another.
Yet, even of each person in China was to disappear from the planet, which is unlikely any time soon, there would still be a very large population of humans, with a very large effect on the biosphere. And other animals, insects, plants and even other humans would quickly fill in the habitat opened up by such a huge displacement. It would not be long until all traces that China existed might disappear, yet the overall meter of life would be very little effected.

I am not happy with the destruction we do to this place. It is not simply the pollution and destruction of jungles and so forth, it is the stripping of the land of all usefulness, leaving our descendants with sludge pits filled with toxic materials. We will soon have either burned or spilled all available petroleum and other fossil fuels, although there is probably enough coal underfoot that given a strong enough disregard for surface life, we could get to that and keep on burning it.

We are not plants, which are very restricted in motion and thereby more efficient stores of energy. Humans and other animals cause net depletion of  energy, since we must move all the time to stay alive. Breathing, swimming, running and just having a heart beat -- all take energy and produce none. The balance in nature is either zero or close to zero overall. There are so many plants that invade areas we do not actively strip of life that they tend to erase history very quickly. In desert areas where plants are more rare, the more durable pieces left over from prior layers of civilizations might remain for a longer period.

Fish and other forms of ocean life tend to destory plants pretty quickly wherever they might grow, unless the plants are able to taste extremely bad, produce toxins in abundance or grow in areas where animals cannot, such is anoxic regions. Yet, no matter what, bacteria will grow. Algae will grow. There are many forms of such microbes that can survive in virtually any surface or ocean environment, and even in solid rock, so long as some moisture is trapped within.

Animals probably would never had evolved on the surface of the planet, leaving that completely to microbes and plants, except that there was such a struggle to survive amongst voracious carnivores underneath the waves. Plants could reproduce by action of the wind and rain. Insects would not be necessary in the earliest forms of plants. And since they needed no protection from insects or being eaten by herbivores, their surfaces need only to protect against microbial or weathering effects. 

Once animals reached the land, and once they could increasingly nibble and digest the plants, the plants had to develop means of surviving despite that, even to the point of giving in entirely to the fate of being eaten, and to simply use it as a means of locomotion, of spreading spores and seeds.

 Yet, still, after hundreds of millions of years, the plants mostly do nothing. The have no need for action.