“A planet doesn’t explode of itself,” said drily
The Martian astronomer, gazing off into the air—
“That they were able to do it is proof that highly
Intelligent beings must have been living there.”
- John Hall Wheelock
From Ron Scranton’s op-ed in The New York Times:
There’s a word for this new era we live in: the Anthropocene. This term, taken up by geologists, pondered by intellectuals and discussed in the pages of publications such as The Economist and the The New York Times, represents the idea that we have entered a new epoch in Earth’s geological history, one characterized by the arrival of the human species as a geological force. The Nobel-Prize-winning chemist Paul Crutzen coined the term in 2002, and it has steadily gained acceptance as evidence has increasingly mounted that the changes wrought by global warming will affect not just the world’s climate and biological diversity, but its very geology—and not just for a few centuries, but for millenniums.
Earth’s destruction through natural catastrophe or, as the poem imagines, nuclear disaster is not mutually exclusive. We tend to imagine nuclear devastation as a product of war, of fat fingers on red buttons in times of conflict, but, as the tsunami that struck the Fukushima power plant showed, a natural disaster can cause a nuclear one, no MAD men needed. The Martian astronomer’s belief in our intelligence seems even more ironic when we don’t even realize what it is that will destroy us.