As I write this I’m 44 and life is screaming by me at breakneck speed. I, as many approaching middle age, have been contemplating life and it’s inevitable end but not as some do. Without getting preachy, I don’t see the end of life as the end of existence so I am not afraid of it. I am, however, a chronic worry wart and as such, I am often considering those I would leave behind. I don’t want my wife to have bills to pay or anything to consider other than continuing forward. Life is for the living and all that. If I play the odds, I will be gone before she will. Before I go I’ll lose the parents that I love. I will lose the pets that I love. I will lose some friends that I love. I don’t like to deal with loss but I find that considering the events and detailed analysis of the outcome of those help me to eventually deal with them better when they inevitably arrive. To that end, I’ve got life insurance that will burn me up and reduce me to my literal carbon footprint. The house will be paid for and I’ve got bills pre-paid for a couple of months ahead to help the grieving process. I’ve planned the best I could but still need to file my will (I’ve already written it). When I feel completely prepared, I won’t have to think about it any more.
Then…. there’s the future.
Recently I’ve been thinking about people a generation beyond me and my wife who will be left to live in a dying society. I don’t say a “dying world” because the earth will continue turning until the sun swallows it in it’s own death throws in about 5 billion years. No, I know for a fact society, human civilization in all it’s various, unique forms will perish long before the earth and its fragile and ever changing ecosystem. The damage we’ve done will self repair when we’re gone and the carbon cycle will return to normal after the anthropocene is done. My niece, however, will have to deal with food shortages potentially. Our friend Charlotte’s baby will have his way of life drastically change in his lifetime. If they have children, those kids will see a world nothing like the one we’re living in now. If things don’t change in 10 years, that’s dramatically change…. that’s no fossil fuels being burned in cars or by industry… the humanity we see around us is done. I will be gone already if the odds are right. My wife will be 80 or 90 when the food shortages start so her suffering will be minimal.
The sea levels won’t rise enough to flood the Earth as some doomsday preppers would have you believe but coastal communities will be wiped off the map. See ya’ll later New Orleans. Adios Miami. Hope you didn’t leave your heart in San Francisco cause it’s under water now. We will loose species with the destruction of their habitat. Sure, some of them like the Polar Bears will move south, mate with grizzlies and have already started to produce “Growler Bears” and “Pizzlies”, but arctic species will have a harder time and many migratory birds will loose foraging territories and wink out of existence all together. The climate will continue to degrade and with increased heat comes harsher weather and with harsher weather comes lightening. Hotter plus dryer plus lightening gets you fire and that only adds to the carbon in the atmosphere and it becomes a self perpetuating cycle.
The food web you heard about in grade school science is a tenuous thing. It takes time for new species to take up the spaces left by those that have vanished. We’ve been on the brink before in our short history, but never like this and as the web collapses, so to the apex predators… we go dark. After the fall of man, it could take a hundred years of population die off, at least two thirds global human population gone, for the carbon cycle to start to take over. After massive forests crop up where we once lived, capturing all the carbon we’ve thrown into the atmosphere, they will die…. fall over and get buried…. and the atmosphere will start to normalize. After a couple thousand or so years and an ice age, things will warm up again and a new intelligent form of life might crop up. The oceans will have fared far better than the land even with the increased acidity, so maybe the Dolphins get their shot. Maybe some other mammal. A million years after the death of man, something or someone else will be walking the earth, maybe digging up some of those fallen trees, maybe burning them to generate electricity. I hope they get wise to the impact it has before we did or at least act sooner than we did.
Stepping this far back, looking that far away at one probable future of the world, Life insurance, bills, my life in general seems inconsequential. That’s pretty comforting…. if you think about it.