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Re: Palaeontology and the Environment

On Jul 28,  4:14, Paul Willis wrote:
} Subject: Palaeontology and the Environment
> Overall, David is correct; the Earth can survive very well without humans,
> has done so for most of its history and there is no reason not to believe
> that life will continue on Earth until it is gobbled up by the sun some few
> billion years from now. In this sense, a palaeontological perspective
> offers an optomistic, longterm prognosis for life on Earth. But this cannot
> be used to defend current environmental damage.

Indeed, there are a couple of critical items that paleontology can
give perspecitve on, but have not been mentioned yet.

1) Time:  How long does it take to "recover" from a mass extinction
event?  Evolution will create new forms to fill vacant niches, but it
takes millions of years to evolve a richly diverse ecosystem.  It's
not on a human timescale.  If we wipe it out, we'll never see it
recover.  Regardless of whether we have any descendants still living
then, it's still not a human timescale.

In other words, in the long term, the planet will be ok, but in the
short term, *we* may not be.  It isn't about saving the planet; it's
about saving ourselves.

2) Recovery: what does it mean to recover, anyway?  Whether new forms
evolve or no, the extinct lineages are gone forever.  There will be no
more hadrosaurs, tyrannosaurs, trilobites, ammonites, rudists, etc.,
no matter what new forms evolve.

Bob Myers                         Unocal Tech. & Ops./I. S. Support
Internet: Bob.Myers@st.unocal.com P. O. Box 68076
Phone: [714] 693-6951             Anaheim, California  92817-8076