‘We are asteroids’: A case of hope amid climate fears

Earth’s atmosphere, such as It exists, both as a profound statistical anomaly and as something that makes human life possible. Human activity is disrupting this natural balance, but there is hope—everyone needs to get involved.

Here’s what leading voices in the world of climate science, art and activism tell us at first session RE: wired greencome together to tell the same basic story: We’re lucky to exist, we’re screwing it up, but all is not lost.

Earth has existed for billions of years and has experienced multiple mass extinction events before modern humans emerged.That’s according to Kenneth Lacovala, a paleontologist at Rowan University who discovered some of the largest dinosaur bones on Earth. Humans have only existed for about 0.006% of Earth’s history, and human civilization has only existed for a fraction of that. But we can learn from the time before our existence.

“The past was real,” Lacovara said. “We can touch it, we can pick it up, we can open it and study it. You can put it in a museum for everyone to see.” Lacovara believes that the conditions that led to human evolution and human civilization are not inexorable avoid.

“If you take the time to learn the language of rocks, they’ll learn to whisper to you. All over the world, they’re saying the same thing: ‘It doesn’t have to be,'” he said. “We’re lucky.”

Previous mass extinctions were caused by volcanoes and asteroids. This time, it’s different. “Now we are asteroids,” Lacovala said. “But we don’t have to. There’s still time to avoid the worst.”

Camille HeymanThe photographer, known for her photos of the Arctic and Antarctic regions documenting the way Earth’s environment is changing, echoed Lacovara.

“My grandfather thought it was very important for us as grandchildren to understand what it means to be a good person,” Seaman said. “Before he died, he said to me: ‘You have been in the making for billions of years. You were born in this time, in this time, when no one was like you. You survived slavery, genocide and disease. Your job is to figure out what you can do that others can’t, and do it.'”

Seaman views her work in these terms.

“I know that my job as an artist is to build greater compassion, empathy and understanding for our world and all the people we share with it,” she said. “But most importantly, my job as an artist is to inspire you.”

Camille Seaman speaks on stage during RE:WIRED Green 2022.

Photo: Kimberly White/Getty Images

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