The current geologic age, the Holocene, began when the last ice age ended and wooly mammoths and giant sloths began to die off. Humans had already been around for a while–building fires, making tools, developing language, leaving their handprints and paintings of animals real and imagined on the caves of Lascaux.
Today, those images seem like premonitions. For although our species has only been here for a speck of time. (T. Rex, for instance abided on earth for about 60 million years) we have already left a lasting mark. Humans have changed the climate and eliminated the habitats of thousands of other species. The next great extinction is so well underway that some geologists say we’re in a new geologic age: Anthropocene. It’s not clear when this actually began–At the onset of agriculture, the beginnings of the Industrial Revolution, or maybe on a very particular date – Trinity, July 16, 1945 when the atom was spit in White Sands, New Mexico. A month later we would drop the bomb on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. The war would end and the space program begins in earnest—head to the moon, to Mars.
I wonder if it’s less curiosity and drive for adventure, than shame that sends us to such a toxic place. Unable to bear the beauty of this Earth and the invitation of belonging, we choose a place already dead, somewhere that would kill us instantly if we stepped out of our spacesuit. There can be no naked hand prints on Mars.
We are Earthlings. Do we have the courage to look at the mess we’ve made? Can we use hour intelligence, technology, and resolve to repair and restore the air, water, and soil on our beautiful planet? Will we abide?