Imagine Earth without people - life - 12 October 2006 - New Scientist

Monday, October 16, 2006
Imagine Earth without people - life - 12 October 2006 - New Scientist: "'The sad truth is, once the humans get out of the picture, the outlook starts to get a lot better,' says John Orrock, a conservation biologist at the National Center for Ecological Analysis and Synthesis in Santa Barbara, California. But would the footprint of humanity ever fade away completely, or have we so altered the Earth that even a million years from now a visitor would know that an industrial society once ruled the planet?"


Now, quick, what's the hidden assumption here? My answer in the comments.

32 comments:

Skookumchuk said...

StY:

I really liked this part:

The humbling - and perversely comforting - reality is that the Earth will forget us remarkably quickly.

Nothing like the perverse comfort that comes from faith in the cosmic justice of human extinction. I once knew a woman who worked in an animal rescue center tell me that she couldn't do what she did for humans since humans were not as likeable as doggies and kitties. Same idea. Hope the author isn't holding down a job as your ambulance driver if you ever need to call 911...

My response to all these nihilistic Rousseauist fantasies is identical to the immortal phrase of the London oil trader confronting the Greenpeace activists who tried to shut down the International Petroleum Exchange in February of 2005: Sod off, Swampy!

Seneca the Younger said...

You got there ahead of me, Skook. Here's my answer: it's making the assumption that what humans are doing is not "natural."

In other words, everything belongs here except us.

Skookumchuk said...

In other words, everything belongs here except us.

Yeah. So inspirational and Al Goreish, isn't it?

terrye said...

Life is great without humans? Ask the dinosaurs. Oh yeah, that's right they are all dead and what's more we did not kill them.


Mother Nature did.

Fresh Air said...

Well, looking over their birthrates, it seems the liberals are intentionally going extinct.

That's one hell of a contribution to the planet right there.

chuck said...

Well, looking over their birthrates, it seems the liberals are intentionally going extinct.

Living here in Utah, I actually used to point this out to folks back in the 70's. They didn't think much of the Mormons but they weren't hot to have kids either, over population and all that. I told them that they were simply abandoning the future to those who *did* have kids. The Mormons, for instance. No one thought this worthy of notice at the time.

loner said...

Earth Abides and on and on and on...

Unpacking books today. Realized I left what in my view is Heinlein's best novel, The Moon is a Harsh Mistress, with a nephew in L.A. Will have to cross the river/border someday this week and buy a copy at Powell's. They have it in hardcover for $400.00.

The earth and the other species, so far as I can tell, are incapable of wishing, much less of wishing us gone. We, on the other hand, wish it, in whole or in part, with—What is it?—"perversely comforting" regularity. I strongly suspect that I will wish one or more gone at least once during both the journey to Powell's and the journey home. Luckily, I'll have only to travel for a minute or two to find a Starbucks and some mind alteration.

I suspect that some or all of you will wish me gone at times during the next few weeks. We all have our fantasies.

Best.

Skookumchuk said...

I strongly suspect that I will wish one or more gone at least once during both the journey to Powell's and the journey home.

Hey, "Loner" - I don't mind you expressing your political beliefs or despair or elation however the election turns out. Really I don't.

But. Remember you are no longer 13. So as you wallow in your personal or civilizational suicidal fantasies driving down I-5 to Powell's bookstore, just don't wander over the median or anything. You might hit some poor soul who doesn't share them.

"Best" as you say. Get some help, friend. Really.

loner said...

Skook—

Nothing suicidal was even remotely hinted at. Slinging sticks and, especially, stones? Well, that's a different matter.

Fresh Air said...

Geez, you guys have veered off the metaphysical road here. I thought we were talking about dumbsh*t scientists with a nihilistic bent?

Skookumchuk said...

Loner -

Sorry. And sorry to help derail the thread, fresh air. It is always difficult over the Internet to divine a person's intent simply in the arrangement of pixels and words on the page. If I offended you Loner, I apologize. Still, it doesn't strike me that you are terribly happy. Of course, it is also none of my business. And maybe I'm wrong. Hope so.

loner said...

skook—

Have you read The Moon is a Harsh Mistress? Train of thought occaisioned by reading the linked (and very silly) article and unpacking. Nothing more.

If you haven't—read the book—I think you'd like it.

Best.

Syl said...

StY

In other words, everything belongs here except us.

Bingo.

If we hadn't killed off the neanderthals and actually had another human species or two around to compete with perhaps they'd see we're all in this together.

We're ALL of the earth. And THAT is why I love animals. It's the DNA, baby.

Rick Ballard said...

FA,

The correct thing to do is to get an opinion from Singer at Princeton concerning the ethical considerations pertaining to having a scientist over for lunch. If his reply is consistant with his past observations we could even invite him to be present.

Probably have to rent a larger barbecue though.

Fresh Air said...

Rick--

I think Singer would say it is perfectly okay to have scientist at lunch, so long as you are hungry and you make sure the scientist is properly cooked.

Skookumchuk said...

...so long as you are hungry and you make sure the scientist is properly cooked.

And just so long as your dogs and cats get their fair share.

MeaninglessHotAir said...

We are the Universe's mechanism of being aware of itself. There may be other such mechanisms out there, but we don't know about them. That makes us pretty important to the Universe.

Or, expressed in other words, we have been created in God's image, so we--our presence--is holy.

chuck said...

you make sure the scientist is properly cooked.

I thought the thread was about the half baked, not the well done.

chuck said...

We are the Universe's mechanism of being aware of itself.

I always thought the long term purpose of humans was to make the planets move in square orbits.

Luther McLeod said...

Actually I think most of those folks should be checked for elevated serotonin levels, as per the post below. Talk about getting carried away.

Speaking of which, what happens in what is it, four or five billion years when the sun burns out. I mean, that's kinda the end isn't it? What if instead we all stay alive and are able to accomplish intergalactic travel, and say, put together a... I dunno, a Noah's Ark and start over in a galaxy far, far away. I mean, can't these folks think out a little bit. If they really care for the downtrodden.

Skookumchuk said...

meaninglesshotair:

Yes, you are correct.

chuck:

Actually, you can do wondrous things with Ptolemaic epicycles and deferents. Including I think polygonal orbits.

Rick Ballard said...

I can't even ride a unicycle so I'm going to stay out of that side of the discussion.

I will say that everyone believes that nature is "good" should be allowed to live on a large nature preserve with a full complement of wildlife. They can go in naked - maybe let them take a sketch with directions to the nearest flint deposit.

Skookumchuk said...

maybe let them take a sketch with directions to the nearest flint deposit.

No, no, no. No technology. Technology evil.

Barry Dauphin said...

There are many hidden assumptions in addition to StY's excellent observation of all is nature except people.

"...the outlook starts to get a lot better." Assumes that people have nothing to do with the value judgment called "better". Assumes visitors will have the same value judgment as Orrock (who might not be a person-the article doesn't make that clear enough). Assumes people are of "one" society.

Added bonus: Orrock is closer to believing in the Garden of Eden than he realizes.

jd watson said...

"There are hidden contradictions in the minds of people who "love nature" while deploring the "artificialities" with which "Man has spoiled 'Nature.'" The obvious contradiction lies in their choice of words, which imply that Man and his artifacts are not part of "Nature" - but beavers and their dams are. But the contradictions go deeper than this prima-facie absurdity. In declaring his love for a beaver dam (erected by beavers for beavers' purposes) and his hatred for dams erected by men (for the purposes of men) the "Naturist" reveals his hatred for his own race - i.e., his own self-hatred.

In the case of "Naturists" such self-hatred is understandable; they are such a sorry lot. But hatred is too strong an emotion to feel toward them; pity and contempt are the most they rate.

As for me, willy-nilly I am a man, not a beaver, and H. sapiens is the only race I have or can have. Fortunately for me, I like being part of a race made up of men and women - it strikes me as a fine arrangement and perfectly "natural."
" -- Robert A. Heinlein

loner said...

My favorite...

A motion to adjourn is always in order.

—Robert A. Heinlein, Time Enough For Love

I was beginning to wonder.

loner said...

MHA—

Know the origin of this:

Be assured that a walk through the ocean of most souls would scarcely get your feet wet.

Your comment brought it to mind.

Barry Dauphin said...

What if the vistors to earth in the future arrive at earth, see no humanity and say, "Shit, where are all the people? We don't know how the Sopranos ended."

terrye said...

loner:

When I was younger I read Heinlein and Kafka and Camus but here of late I have noticed that I conflate the novels, I can't remember just who was who and what was what.

But a writer like Shakespeare or a story teller like Steinbeck or even Bronte, now that I can recall with a lot more clarity. I have no idea why. I guess I just prefer the story to the message.

I doubt if we will be all that put out with you in the coming weeks. Whatever we may say.

Knucklehead said...

Luther,

what happens in what is it, four or five billion years when the sun burns out. I mean, that's kinda the end isn't it? What if instead we all stay alive and are able to accomplish intergalactic travel, and say, put together a... I dunno, a Noah's Ark and start over in a galaxy far, far away.

There are the various twists on the old adage; you need to ruin a perfectly good {child, horse, dog, car...} to learn to be a good {parent, rider, trainer, driver...}

The moonbats never think long term ;)

Knucklehead said...

Heh, give loner a break. Occassional bouts of melancholy are good for the soul. If I keep reading Steyn's America Alone I'm gonna go on an extended bender of the stuff. Yeesh!

loner said...

terrye—

When I read most of the classic pre-1978 science fiction novels I did it in the company of my friends and we talked about them a lot afterwards. My father had also read many of them and he and I could argue for hours about any and all things without it getting personal. Part of the reason I remember them so well is that I remember all that talk. Right now just about the only books I talk about to and with other people are the Harry Potter books. I miss my Dad.

I was enjoying myself when I wrote that first comment yesterday. A silly article and my joy in my books. And I found the responses fascinating and entertaining...and Heinlein finally arrived in the form I hoped he would...the immortal.

Best.