I just returned from a family vacation in Cartagena, Colombia, a South American city that rests along the Caribbean Sea. As I sat on the balcony of my uncle’s seventh floor apartment which faces the sea, I observed as the waves crashed along the shore, so consistently, one after the other. I began to wonder how long this natural occurrence had been taking place in this very same spot during the earth’s history. I also wondered for how much longer it would persist.
I began to ponder about how these shores might look after five hundred, a thousand, even five thousand years from now. How long will it take for the oceans to finally start devouring coastal cities as has been predicted by world renowned climatologists?
Or is it all just hype?
Is human civilization destined to thrive for eternity, as one would like to believe?
At an individual level, we would all like to believe that death is something too far away to have to reflect upon. Similarly, we prefer the notion that our species will live on forever, that our children will have children who will have children and so on and so on, perpetuating our genes for eternity.
We want to believe that our city, region or country will always be there, that traditional weather patterns will always persist, that age long traditions will never fade away.
But if there is one rule I think we should all take into consideration, it’s the fact that nothing lasts forever.
Let’s put things into perspective. According to a large number of astrophysicists, the existence of the Universe (as we know it) began 13.7 billion years ago (which makes me wonder how things looked 13.8 billion years ago? That’s an entirely different topic, however). The Earth, our home, took form approximately 4.55 billion years ago and life on this planet began about 700 million years ago. We Homo sapiens have only roamed the Earth for approximately 100,000 years, not nearly as long as the dinosaurs, who reigned for 180 million years, and only a millisecond in comparison to the supposed existence of everything.
But things don’t always last so long. The existence of something may end abruptly and unexpectedly, as we now know may have been the case with the dinosaurs that are believed to have been taken out by a fallen meteor which drastically altered the Earth’s climate.
The universe and the earth are much more turbulent and unpredictable than we dare to believe. Stars are constantly exploding into supernovas, something most of us aren’t aware of as we sit on the couch at home.
For many of us who work regular jobs, have families to worry about, funny TV shows to watch and plenty of beer to drink, things may seem relatively stagnant, only gradually evolving as we get older, and it is often difficult to imagine what we have only witnessed in movies.
Time seems to go by so slowly, and we rarely have either the time or the inclination to ponder about the major events, either at a terrestrial or universal level, that may take place in the near or distant future.
Major changes on our planet alone have been taking place since the Earth’s existence. Areas that were once covered in ice are now tropical paradises while places that were once high mountain tops are now resting deep under the ocean. Some of these occurrences have taken millions of years while others may have happened much more suddenly than we allow ourselves to believe. Humans have not been around long enough to notice many of these cycles.
So what will happen in the future? Will the 100,000 years we have spent dwelling the Earth come to a sudden end within the next three months, as many believers of the Mayan calendar prophecy suggest?
Will the city of Cartagena be gradually swallowed up (along with all other coastal cities around the world) by rising sea levels as a result of manmade overconsumption and degradation of the environment? Or will the end come suddenly, not allowing a single living being to prepare for such an event?
Steven Hawking, a world renowned scientist and author, once claimed that he was surprised by the fact that the human race has managed to survive through the 20th century after so many turbulent events such as both World Wars, the Cuban Missile Crisis and the hostilities between the Soviet Union and the United States while both possessed (and still do) an appalling amount of nuclear weapons. He has also stated that he believes with near certainty that other forms of intelligent life exist in our Universe, a notion that has caused him to fear for mankind in the event that we were to ever come in contact with one of them.
Yes, we humans, as a short lived species so far, have already dodged a number of bullets, many of them produced by ourselves and aimed at ourselves. But even if we do become more aware of our own self destructive tendencies and learn to love one another and the planet we live on, ending the potential for new wars and human induced climatic catastrophes, there still remains an infinite number of external, more natural threats that will eventually lead to the end of an era, just as was the case with the dinosaurs, just as is the case with all the stars in the sky, just as is the case with all living things.
It is only the course of nature, and no matter how big or powerful, every candle will eventually fizz out.
The only question is whether it will be a gradual phenomenon in a distant future or something that may be come as an unexpected surprise…….
Follow me on Twitter: https://twitter.com/bebo2781