A rocky warning

This post is also available in: Dutch.

Part of the 'rock record' of Curacao, the Middle Curacao Formation. Deposits, called turbidites, formed about 60 million years ago.

As a geologist, I’ve been trained to be some sort of detective, investigating the doings of the earth through time. Rocks are wonderful subjects to study, because they don’t run away or argue with you, and provide you patiently with a wealth of information, as long as you know where and how to look. Advances in methodologies allow us even more insights in modern and past processes. I might be biased, but geology is a wonderful science!

Today, through a facebook post, I happened upon a blog that aims to ‘examine efforts to balance human affairs with the planet’s limits’. The post that was the center of the discussion deals with the fact, that elevated carbon dioxide levels are nothing new in earth’s history. But, these events were always followed by significant changes in the earth’s ecology, specifically through mass extinctions. The rock record, the sequence of layers that lets us take a peek into the remote past, doesn’t lie. The post speaks of “stinking black mud laid down on the floor of the ocean”, deposited every time a carbon dioxide buildup took place. Nice prospect.

Although there still exists a lobby against the “doomsday stories”, which unfortunately seems to be paid for by multinationals afraid of the financial consequences of change, I myself, as a geologist and naturalist, am convinced that the CO2 buildup is a scientific fact and will cause severe trouble (and I’m not only referring to sea level rise, there is much more to the story). What I also experience on a daily basis is the reluctance, or even blunt refusal, of society to prepare for the consequences of our own doings, or to change our ways in order to attempt to restore the balance. The geologist in me considers it extremely scary, that a species which has only roamed the earth for the last  200.000 years or so of the 4.6 billion years of geological history has found ways to destroy a significant part of its resources so rapidly. The trilobites, ammonites and dinosaurs took way more time to disappear and did so by means of external impacts. We humans create our own downfall, at least if we allow thing to go on like they do. Do we want to be one of the constituents of the next layer of “stinking black mud laid down on the floor of the ocean”? I don’t think so. What do you think?

Check out the article I am referring to on the Dot Earth blog: dotearth.blogs.nytimes.com

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