Saturday, September 13, 2014

The Most Invasive Alien Species Ever

Us. It's us.

If that sounds like some green terrorist guilt trip, I don't mean it that way, and it isn't even my opinion. I read it in a book called The Sixth Extinction by Elizabeth Kolbert.

If you want to get really discouraged and freaked out fast, read that book.

So many anthropologists and paleontologists and geologists now see modern human beings as the most planet-changing species ever to hit Earth that the modern era has been renamed the Anthrocene.

The name invokes our species-specific tendency to alter the environment in drastic ways while spreading alien species around the globe to the detriment of native ones. Apparently we are responsible for the spread of all kinds of species to places they really don't belong: viruses, fungi, zebra mussels, cane toads, kudzu, and on and on.

The upshot of all this altering and spreading is a mass extinction of the same (or greater) magnitude as the one that happened when that comet wiped out the dinosaurs.

The jury is still out as to who is going to survive this particular extinction, and how, but apparently, it won't be the frogs. The frogs are already nearly gone.

The book got me to thinking though, it might just be true that the aliens are us; that if we want to see an invasive alien species up close, get proof positive that alines exist, all we have to do is look in a mirror.

Since the Victorian Era, many writers and even scientists have floated the idea that human beings are actually from Mars--not just men, but women too, all of us. (Venus is too hot.) Many modern day scientists believe that fungi, those tiny strange organisms that make life possible and make bread rise, actually came here on some wandering bit of rock.

We are in a very real sense descended from stars.

Whether or not we as homo sapiens were purposively bred by big-eyed aliens who came to Assyria for the gold is not even the issue. Our very existence, our genetic makeup, the way we behave in such a naturally destructive capacity, proves us to be a cosmic pest.

Evidently, humans are the ape variant of purple loosestrife or Japanese knotweed.

It seems the Earth goes through lifeforms in a cyclic fashion. So you have your slow Darwinian evolution and random mutations and so forth, and then, every four or five hundred thousand years the Earth wipes the slate clean and starts over again with new critters and new plants, as well as a few hardy survivors from the last cycle.

If we are indeed in the midst of the Sixth Extinction, which animals will still be around when the next cycle starts? Rats? Roaches? Snails?

We might not be here to answer that question.

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