This morning it’s no secret:
Spring is here.
Subtle hints are gone, the weather warm
And green presses near
In all its shades.
The birds in every nest
Sing trees of life;
Generation to next, traits and seed-shaped beaks,
Perch to flight
On instinct’s errand.
This morning it’s no secret
Life is here.
A sixth extinction may not tame
Flame and feather, green and rain –
But will you risk it?
Spring has swept over Texas. I sense it from the wood doves and the scent of mountain laurel, koolaid-sweet and honey-wild. In the midst of biology run rampant, I read grim books and odd theories and ask myself – What should we risk for Life? Or perhaps: do we risk Life for our lives?
The idea of mass extinction is nothing new. Humans have understood it through flood, flame, and ice, tales nearly as old as whichever Creation you please. Today it’s a tale told by science. The question is whether the tale is a truth for now, or later.
For two understandings of that question, see Earth Is Not in the Midst of a Sixth Mass Extinction, and What is a ‘Mass Extinction’ and Are We In One Now?. The first views the question as a “network collapse problem” – a single problem cascading into spin-off catastrophes. It says: soon. The second questions whether current extinction rates exceed the “background” extinction rate. It says: now.
Both positions depend on how we understand what data we have about the deep past, in light of our current world. The point of agreement: catastrophes are normal, but human actions affect life on a scale unprecedented by any other species1.
When tomorrow depends on today – when do we act? What should we risk for Life?
1 Except, possibly, plants. But plants have been really well-behaved ever since – unless you want to blame them for the coal.