I'm going to tell you a story. It's going to seem sad--which it is--but it should also bring you a sense of existential relief.

We're in the Sixth Extinction. There's no doubt about this. No climate deniers, or evangelicals, or people who just don't want to listen can refute this basic reality.

There just aren't the facts to back it up.
We're dying. The planet is changing.
But it's the Sixth Extinction.

Not the first.

Not the second.
The first extinction--though technically it was the second, which scientists can explain better than myself--was Snowball Earth.
Earth was a ball of ice--or icy sludge-- after a prolonged period of warming. This is 700 million years ago.
So these little blobs of algae and fungi sat in stasis, being warmed by the sun.

And slowly the earth began to warm again.
And really, really weird lifeforms began to develop. Creatures which scientists are still trying to figure out...

...grew and thrived and existed in a world we can't even comprehend.

All of it happened in the oceans. Life hadn't moved onto land yet. ucmp.berkeley.edu/vendian/ediaca…
The Cambrian Explosion which followed was ridiculously cool. This is when trilobites made the scene. But it was filled with sci-fi wonders:
I mean, they were weird. Awkward, goofy looking, altogether impractical creatures, but dammit: they owned the earth for a long time.
Now is a good time to introduce the geologic periods:
WE'RE NOWHERE NEAR THE DINOSAURS. There are millions and millions and millions of years between these wacky creatures and dinosaurs. Just staggering amounts of time.
By the time we get to the Devonian period, we finally, FINALLY see life move onto land. This is 400 million years ago. (Talk to a geologist for specifics.)
Our ancestors are a little weirdo called Tiktaalik, whose story is AMAZING, and I highly recommend you read about it.
Tiktaalik was a fish who kept escaping from much bigger fish by developing--I kid you not--elbows and the ability to crawl onto land.

It doesn't hurt that it's so smiley.
I mean, what a goober. We're all descended from this little dude.
So life moves onto land, and plants start proliferating. The plants, weirdly, are a HUGE PROBLEM.
So much so that they create the second extinction. news.nationalgeographic.com/2015/09/15911-…
The shorthand version is this: all the plants that lived in water moved onto land. At first they had shallow roots and didn't disrupt too much.
But as they became more successful, they disrupted everything: the plants got larger, the roots got deeper, and more minerals got dumped into the water as a result.

Life is so weird. I love it.
The plants killed EVERYTHING. Literally. Those little green bastards destroyed life as it existed as more and more chemical compounds got dumped into the water and life couldn't adapt quickly enough to thwart it.
This is how much life it wiped out:
That is a lot of weird creatures being wiped out by a bunch of plants.
Okay. Now we're cooking with gas.

Literally: now we're in the Carboniferous period. Talk to the fossil fuel companies for info; they hire all the geologists.
But this is the reason we get oil. We don't suck up dinosaurs out of the ground; we suck up PLANTS.
All the rainforests--which of course killed everything in the second extinction--then had their OWN extinction.
I don't think geologic periods have a sense of irony, but still.
Alright. This is where my whole thread was headed, and was much, much longer than I anticipated.

We come into the Permian period. Creatures in both the sea and on land are looking a little more familiar to us.

None of us would want to face them in a brawl, but at least they have four legs and two eyes. This is our branch of the family tree, the Therapsids.
Hot, right? But these are our relatives, the split in the family tree. There are Theropods and Sauropods: we belong to these guys.
It's like a cross between a cat and a lizard, which is pretty much my ideal creature.
So life stumbles on for millions and millions of years. 50 million, more or less, but with numbers like that it's really hard to keep track.
And then something truly, completely cataclysmic happens. END TIMES madness. Horrible climate change. Unthinkable disasters.
Whatever we think happened, it's probably worse.
Something crazy happened. Or someone.
Amidst total and complete devastation--really, this is not hyperbole--one little creature sort of slipped through.
It's estimated that 70 percent of land species died out. Ocean creatures fared even worse with 90 percent die off.
But there was this odd little creature called Lystrosaurus, aka "Shovel Lizard."

I mean, its name does not denote heroism.
Theories differ as to how and why it survived what is still the most devastating collapse the world has ever seen.
It was a herbivore. It was small. It burrowed. Did it survive because it could breathe was was essentially noxious poison? Or something more pedestrian?
To me it doesn't matter.

Not because I don't care about the science.
But it survived as the dominant species for a million years, after most other lifeforms completely and utterly collapsed.

And that is amazing.
It just doodled along, munching plants with its two teeth for a million years.
And then we come to the Triassic. Finally dinosaurs.

But it was little Lystrosaurus who pulled us through.
This funny looking, totally harmless creature who apex predators probably scoffed at just ambled right on through the worst period on earth. (with bony creatures, anyway. Single-celled creatures had it way worse.)
All this is a long way of saying that life is resilient. And life is good. And life is odd, and unexpected, and surprising.
And we're living through a very real crisis. It's not hypothetical. It's an honest-to-betsy crisis with real repercussions for all creatures.
And we should do everything in our power to thwart those who would send us faster into the Sixth Extinction.
But life is bigger than us. And stranger. And ultimately, magical.
We cannot anticipate how it will succeed us. We can only do our best to right the wrongs that we have ushered in, for our kids, and our kids kids, and all the creatures on the earth who had no say in their fate.
But life will continue no matter what happens.

It might be cold comfort to some, but to me it's everything.
I'm betting on the cephalopods.
*paleontologists, too. It was really late at night and I was pretty dippy.
Proof positive of crazy magic! This is INSANE. Meet your new earth future. It lays eggs on THERMAL VENTS. flip.it/gUv8wE
Extinctions and the Shovel Lizard, a Love Story threadreaderapp.com/thread/9615024…
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