200 years ago — In 1815 — the final version of Wm. Wordsworth’s poetic masterpiece, Ode on Intimations of Immortality was completed. The first two stanzas read as follows:
There was a time when meadow, grove, and stream,
The earth, and every common sight,
To me did seem
Apparelled in celestial light,
The glory and the freshness of a dream.
It is not now as it hath been of yore;–
Turn wheresoe’er I may,
By night or day,
The things which I have seen I now can see no more.
The Rainbow comes and goes,
And lovely is the Rose,
The Moon doth with delight
Look round her when the heavens are bare;
Waters on a starry night
Are beautiful and fair;
The sunshine is a glorious birth;
But yet I know, where’er I go,
That there hath past away a glory from the earth.
Wordsworth was clearly prescient; one could imagine, in fact, that he wrote those words just last week, and in the process most ably summed up the atrocities that our species is currently visiting upon the earth.
If there should be any doubt of human’s global NEGATIVE impact, this recent truthout.org essay entitled Mass Extinction: It’s the End of the World as We Know It is a well-done synopsis of Anthropogenic Climate Disruption (ACD) and the realities implicit in the atmospheric damage humans have caused as of this day. I won’t go into detail or attempt to summarize the entire of the essay, but I will quote here a single paragraph that discusses the self-reinforcing-feedback-loop dilemma that is a consequence of mankinds’ release into the atmosphere of billions and billions of tons of Carbon Dioxide.
A self-reinforcing positive feedback loop is akin to a “vicious circle”: It accelerates the impacts of anthropogenic climate disruption (ACD). An example would be methane releases in the Arctic. Massive amounts of methane are currently locked in the permafrost, which is now melting rapidly. As the permafrost melts, methane – a greenhouse gas 100 times more potent than carbon dioxide on a short timescale – is released into the atmosphere, warming it further, which in turn causes more permafrost to melt, and so on.
We have already reached the point where we’re only a few degrees short of the warming that occurred some 250 million years ago — caused by massive volcanism in Siberia — that led to an increase in global temperatures of 6 degrees Celsius and caused the “Great Dying” (aka the Permian Mass Extinction) where it is estimated that 95% of earth’s life forms became extinct. This day, and according to
. . . a recently published study in Science Advances, . . . the planet has officially entered its sixth mass extinction event. The study shows that species are already being killed off at rates much faster than they were during the other five extinction events, and warns ominously that humans could very likely be among the first wave of species to go extinct.
Perhaps that’s the best news the universe has heard since the Big Bang — that humans could very likely be among the first wave of species to go extinct. Not a troubling stat to our solar system, I’m sure.
Wordsworth referred to mankind’s most egregious fault in his poem Lines Written in Early Spring when he wrote:
To her fair works did Nature link
The human soul that through me ran;
And much it grieved my heart to think
What man has made of man.
And here we are, 200 years down the road, and What man has made of man is imposing drastic effects on the entire of the earth’s biosphere, including himself. In a recent Reuters blog post, the dilemma was summarized:
Humans will be extinct in 100 years because the planet will be uninhabitable, according to Australian microbiologist Frank Fenner, one of the leaders of the effort to eradicate smallpox in the 1970s. He blames overcrowding, denuded resources and climate change. Fenner’s prediction is not a sure bet, but he is correct that there is no way emissions reductions will be enough to save us from our trend toward doom. And there doesn’t seem to be any big global rush to reduce emissions, anyway.
Sounds as though the story’s ending is already known and told. The “intelligent” species, the species ‘created in God’s image,’ the species that was ‘granted dominion’ over eacn and all other life forms — aka Homo sapiens, the most recent ape-derivative mammalian species to evolve — is soon to have as its sole legacy the mass destruction of life on the one planet known so far to contain LIFE. I suppose in some quarters the ability to accomplish such a feat will be seen as defining the word “intelligence.” I disagree, and note that William Wordsworth — in Intimations of Immortality, the final verse — summarized the attitude of those few who will lament the Sixth Mass Extinction, when he wrote:
The Clouds that gather round the setting sun
Do take a sober colouring from an eye
That hath kept watch o’er man’s mortality;
Another race hath been, and other palms are won.
Thanks to the human heart by which we live,
Thanks to its tenderness, its joys, and fears,
To me the meanest flower that blows can give
Thoughts that do often lie too deep for tears.
Respect for all of life is absent in a great percentage of minds of the species that has declared itself the planet’s dominant entity, a detail which offers confirmation of the Wordsworthian thesis That there hath past away a glory from the earth.
R.I.P. Mother Earth