Buried in the Yucatán Peninsula in Mexico, is an impact crater some 9 miles in diameter called the Chicxulub Crater. It’s named after the town of Chicxulub where its center is located. And by center, I mean the bull’s-eye where the huge comet or asteroid crashed-smashed-crunched into the earth some 66 million years ago and caused huge tsunamis, fires, earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, and such huge clouds of particles and dust that plants were unable to photosynthesize, the food chain unable to complete itself, and 75% of plants and animals went extinct.
Such was the topic of our dinner conversation the other night. We had a friend over. He was worried about global warming, was emphasizing how quickly Life As We Know It could end. “Ten years!” he said. “Once that asteroid hit and the greenhouse effect kicked in, it took about ten years! Maybe less!”
A couple of days later, Dixie and I were at a Fun Institute potluck where people asked about our road trip, which inevitably led to Yellowstone, which inevitably led to the conversation about what would happen if it blew. “The end of life on the planet!” one person said. Another piped in, “Three calderas!” “What’s a caldera?” someone else asked.
Well, from what I’ve read, if/when Yellowstone blows (which isn’t likely to happen anytime soon; but really, who knows?) but if and when it does blow, it’s going to be pretty disastrous for anyone visiting the park that day. That’s for sure. And pretty disastrous for the United States as it would likely send us into a nuclear winter, meaning: all that ash would block out the sun. This would obviously affect the rest of the planet in some pretty cataclysmic ways, but Yellowstone blowing wouldn’t necessarily cause mass extinction the way it is believed that asteroid/comet did. Or so the scientists say. And I tend to believe them. I mean, they make it their business to understand this stuff.
Right now, I can just hear you. Clifford, such a perky topic! Thank you for reminding me that Armageddon could be just around the corner! The thing is, with all this talk about environmental tipping points—polar ice caps melting, rainforest diebacks, coral reef diebacks, oceans rising—and with all that we’ve been experiencing—droughts, floods, fires, record-breaking rainfalls and temperatures—it seems that the end of the world is on people’s minds. I actually heard a woman say the other day, “If I’d known then what I know now, I never would have had children.”
It’s a strange thing to walk through life thinking an asteroid could smack into the planet, or a volcano could blow, or a mega-tsunami could surge up and wipe us all out. Likewise, with global warming, to think that our beautiful home might finally be in the mood to start over, see if she can do better this time, it’s a thought so big, so scary, so nothing-to-do-with-how-I’m-going-to pay-my-bills that it’s understandable that we choose not to think about it.
But there are some of us who’ve been thinking about the world ending for a long time. And I mean, even before anyone thought to put the words carbon and footprint next to each other. Those of us who, even as children, looked up into the vast universe and marveled at the sheer impossibility of life. And I’m not talking about in a gloomy morbid way. I’m talking about in an excited way, the feeling-like-you-won-the-lottery way.
Something about knowing it could all come to an end, at any second really, makes me love each day I get to live this miracle that much more. It makes me want to do what I can to protect this planet too. Even though my country’s current administration seems to care less. But I am not talking politics here. Even though it’s hard not to. I’m talking about appreciating what we’ve got. Living our lives with the understanding that each day we get is a gift, that this planet is amazing. And we are each of us a product of this planet. We are not the rulers. We are not the bosses. She is the boss. And when she’s finally had enough, she’ll let us know. You can be sure of that. And even she’s not the boss. The universe could decide to throw her a curve ball, just like it did 66 million years ago.
For some weird reason, this understanding brings me great comfort.
So that’s all I’ve got today, some nice light happy thoughts. Thanks for tuning in. As always, I’d love to hear your thoughts. Am I just a weirdo? And remember, live the love. It’s all we’ve got.
Oh, and check out my latest novel. It’s not about the end of the world. I promise.