Goodbye Minor Life Form
by James Mann
Everything you know -- or think you know -- about the world is the product of the last 1000 years. Printing, electricity, the internal combustion engine, computers, et al have been created in a tiny sliver of the life of this planet. Long before we developed our frontal lobes and grew smart enough to get in out of the damn rain, this planet supported a fully functioning system of life. Then along came man. For thousands of years, the Earth barely noticed his presence -- he lived, he ate some bugs, and when the big clock ticked its final tock, he fell over wherever he was, and died. In a few moments, perhaps another creature came by and ate up all his good parts, and the cycle of life continued on. And this process worked quite well, up until the very recent past, when one species got the big head and started screwing with the program. By disregarding nearly every evolutionary concept in place up until his arrival, man has blundered about with the foolish notion that he alone exists above the laws of nature. Every great advance that man has made has carried the potential for harm, and in almost every case, man has made sure that he exploited his surroundings, and in doing so, maximized the chance that something bad would happen. But generally, our planet has been strong enough to withstand and tolerate most of mans foolishness, and it will continue forever to do so, because it makes the rules. It's man who steadfastly refuses to READ THE DAMN MANUAL and display the sense of common earthworm, a creature that ain't much to look at, but does have enough gumption to stay away from predators and to establish a residence in a place that will sustain him. Nope, man has divined himself brighter than the lowly earthworm and in his infinite wisdom spurned the lush comfort of a hole in the earth surrounded by nutrients, instead convincing himself that the barren rock of the sidewalk and roadway is actually the finer place to stake a claim.
Guess what? Sometime in the future, maybe not in the next millennium (although I'm betting on it), one earthworm is going to say to another as the last human falls to the ground, "What the hell was that?" and shrug what passes for shoulders on an earthworm, and continue on. He'll tunnel underneath the parking lot of a McDonalds somewhere in California, but leave soon after, since without redirected (i.e. irrigated) water, this part of the planet will return to the desert it was for most of history. He'll take comfort in the shade created by the Aswan dam, and munch contently on the bacteria and such left by the decomposing remains of the geniuses who came up with the notion of screwing around with a perfectly functioning ecosystem by damming the river up in the first place.
Of course, our lowly earthworm will avoid most of Europe, since vegetation will be scarce due to overpopulation and pollution. Perhaps he'll ponder why vast tracts of otherwise fine land can't sustain him and his children, but since an earthworm has no need for nuclear power, the concept of "half-life" and "radiation poisoning" won't mean much to him. He'll just move along, find a different plot of grass, and tunnel himself a new home. Perhaps in Africa, in the grasslands and jungles he'll enjoy a nice life, since no one (as of yet!) has figured out how to have sex with an earthworm, thus sparing them from catching AIDS, which in the end, along with the traditional diseases brought about by a lack of fresh water, killed off the bulk of the humans living in what they regarded as "the birthplace of civilization." And on and on it will go.
If this seems to be an overly pessimistic (and simplistic) view of the situation, and if you think that mankind is smart enough to overcome its initial missteps and learns to live by the rules that have existed far longer than it has, then more power to you. You have just as much chance of being right as I do. Of course, the word "chance" relates to a situation or event that involves some element of randomness. Nature, and the forces it abides by, doesn't take much stock in "randomness," not in the day-to-day view of things. Sure, it might have been random way back in the beginning, when perhaps a race existed between Earth and some other hunk of orbiting stone and gases, but since the point that our atmosphere developed, "chance" has largely been factored out. Since then, stupid has been punished and the meek, well…they ain't inherited the earth yet. Nor will they ever.
Goodbye minor life form.